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Full text of "CMH Pub 10-22 The Corps Of Engineers: The War Against Germany"

UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 



The Technical Services 



THE CORPS OF ENGINEERS: 
THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



by 

Alfred M. Beck 
Abe Bortz 





CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY 
UNITED STATES ARMY 
WASHINGTON, D.C., 1985 



U.S. Army Center of Military Histoiy 



*. Gen. Douglas Kinnard, USA (Ret.), Chief of Military History 

Chief Historian David ¥. Trask 

Chief, Histories Division Col. James W. Dunn 

Editor in Chief [ohn W, Elsberg 



Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data 

The Corps of Engineers. 

(United States Army in World War II: the technical 
services) 

Bibliography: p. 
Includes index. 

1. World War. 1939-1945 — Regimental histories — 
United States. 2. United States. Army. Corps of 
Engineers— History. 3. World War, 1939- 1945 — Campaigns- 
Europe, 4. World War, 1939-1945— Campaigns— Africa, 
North, 1. Beck, Alfred M.. 1939- . 11. Series: 
United States Army in World War If. 

D769.33.C67 1985 940.54'J273 84- I 1376 



First Printing— CMH Pub 10-22 




History of 
THE CORPS OF ENGINEERS 



Troops and Equipment 
Construction in the United States 
The War Against Germany 
The War Against japan 



* 

IV 



Foreword 



In this, the last volume dealing with the performance of the Corps of 
Engineers during World War II, the Corps' support of the war in the 
European and North African theaters is recounted in detail. 

This narrative makes clear the indispensible role of the military engi- 
neer at the fighting front and his part in maintaining Allied armies in the 
field against European Axis powers. American engineers carried the 
fight to enemy shores by their mastery of amphibious warfare. In build- 
ing and repairing road and rail nets for the fighting forces, they wrote 
their own record of achievement. In supporting combat and logistical 
forces in distant lands, these technicians of war transferred to active thea- 
ters many of the construction and administrative functions of the peace- 
time Corps, so heavily committed to public works at home. 

The authors of this volume have reduced a highly complex story to a 
comprehensive yet concise account of American military engineers in the 
two theaters of operations where the declared main enemy of the war was 
brought to unconditional surrender. The addition of this account to the 
official U.S. Army in World War II series closes the last remaining gaps 
in the history of the technical services in that conflict. 

Washington, D.C. DOUGLAS KINNARD 

21 June 1984 Brigadier General, USA (Ret.) 

Chief of Military History 



v 



The Authors 



Alfred M. Beck received his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from George- 
town University. He has held several research and supervisory positions 
in the U.S. Army Center of Military History and the Historical Division, 
Office of the Chief of Engineers. 

Abe Bortz received his Ph.D. degree from Harvard University in 
1951. After working for twelve years for the Historical Division, Office 
of the Chief of Engineers, he has served since 1963 as the historian of the 
Social Security Administration, Baltimore, Maryland. He is the author of 
Social Security Sources in Federal Records. 

Charles W. Lynch received his M.A. degree from the University of 
West Virginia in 1948. He worked for the Historical Division, Office of 
the Chief of Engineers, from 1951 to 1963 before transferring to the U.S. 
Army Materiel Command, the predecessor of the U.S. Army Materiel 
Development and Readiness Command. He retired from the federal ser- 
vice in 1980. 

Lida Mayo was a graduate of Randolph-Macon Woman's College. She 
served as a historian at the Military Air Transport Service from 1946 to 
1950 and from 1950 to 1962 at the Office of the Chief of Ordnance, 
where she was the chief historian until that office merged with the Office, 
Chief of Military History, the predecessor of the U.S. Army Center of 
Military History. She is the author of The Ordnance Department: On Beach- 
head and Battlefront and coauthor of The Ordnance Department: Planning 
Munitions for War, both in the U.S. Army in World War II series. Her 
commercially published works include Henry Clay, Rustics in Rebellion, 
Bloody Buna, and a number of journal articles. She retired from federal 
service in 1971 and died in 1978. 

Ralph F. Weld received his Ph.D. degree from Columbia University 
in 1938. He worked as a historian with the Historical Division, Office of 
the Chief of Engineers, from 1951 to 1958, when he retired from the 
federal service. He continued to serve the Historical Division on short 
assignments until 1964. He is the author of Brooklyn Is America and was on 
the editorial staff of the Columbia Encyclopedia. 



vi 



Preface 



This volume is the fourth in the series dealing with the activities of 
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War II. As a companion 
to an earlier history of American military engineering in the war against 
Japan, this book recounts the engineer role in the campaigns in North 
Africa, Italy, and western and central Europe that wrested those areas 
from German and Italian control. 

Because of the thin neutrality to which the United States government 
clung in 1941, the first introduction of American engineer elements into 
England was clandestine, but even with the earliest American theater 
command existing only in embryo, the need for engineers was implicit in 
Allied strategy. The Anglo-American decision in March 1941 to deal first 
with Germany as the most dangerous enemy required the construction of 
strategic bomber bases and huge troop cantonments in England, all with 
the object of bringing Allied might to bear against Germany from the 
west. The story of how this was accomplished necessarily concerns itself 
with organizational structures, operating procedures, statistical data, and 
descriptions of vast logistical effort. The redirection of the entire strategy 
in 1942 to a second theater in the Mediterranean brought American engi- 
neer troops to their first encounters with a determined and skilled ad- 
versary in that part of the world and to a sober realization of their own 
strengths and weaknesses in combat. In sustained operations across two 
continents and through two and a half years of war, these engineers car- 
ried out the basic mission of the military engineer in the field. 

With the measured assurance of doctrinal literature, the 1943 edition 
of the engineer Field Manual 5—6, Operations of Field Engineer Units, de- 
fined the engineer's task as support of other Army combat and supply 
elements, increasing the power of forces by construction or destruction 
to facilitate the movement of friendly troops and to impede that of the 
enemy. To assert, however, that American engineers handily fulfilled 
this mandate in Europe and North Africa is to overlook constant trial and 
error and relearning from past experience. By the end of the war engi- 
neer officers and men well understood the meaning of the ancient poet 
who declared that the immortals had put sweat and a long, steep way 
before excellence. 



vii 



Many hands have shaped the mass of material on which this history is 
based into a comprehensive whole. The first half of the manuscript, 
roughly through the end of the Italian campaign, was completed by Abe 
Bortz, William Lynch, and Ralph Weld, all of whom worked for the 
Corps of Engineers Historical Office. Lida Mayo set in place most of the 
draft chapters covering operations in northwest Europe and Germany. I 
added several chapters and recast virtually the entire manuscript, work- 
ing under the discerning eye of Robert W. Coakley, a historian of sur- 
passing ability and a guiding spirit in the process of transforming a rough 
product into a viable history worthy of print. 

The publication of a work of even such cooperative authorship as this 
one would be impossible without the able assistance of a number of fine 
editors who brought this book from manuscript to printed page. Joyce W. 
Hardyman and Edith M. Boldan began this labor, but the heavier burden 
fell to Catherine A. Heerin and Diane L. Sedore, whose respect for the 
English language and attention to detail made this account consistently 
readable. Their patience in the tedious process of preparing a book and 
their good humor in dealing with its last author were unfailing. 

The maps presented in the volume are the work of Charles L. Brittle, 
who took vague requests for illustrations and created a series of visual 
aids to guide the reader through a sometimes complicated text. Howell C. 
Brewer, Jr., lent his hand to this effort by producing the organization 
charts shown in the narrative. Arthur S. Hardyman, who directed the 
graphic work, also gave valuable advice on the choice of photographs 
that complement the text. 

For all the advice and support rendered by this willing staff of assis- 
tants, the final responsibility for the content of this history remains that 
of the authors. Collectively they bear the burden of errors of fact or 
omission. 

Washington, D.C. ALFRED M. BECK 

5 January 1984 



viii 



Contents 

Chapter Page 

I. INTRODUCTION 3 

II. THE ENGINEERS CROSS THE ATLANTIC, 1941-1942 7 

Reconnaissance 8 

Iceland 10 

Magnet Force 16 

The Bolero Plan 22 

Creation of the Services of Supply 24 

The Engineer Pyramid 26 

Roundup Planning 31 

III. THE ENGINEER MACHINE IN MOTION IN THE 

UNITED KINGDOM, 1942 35 

Personnel 35 

Training 39 

Supply 41 

Intelligence 48 

Construction 50 

IV. THE ENGINEERS IN THE INVASION OF NORTH 

AFRICA 59 

Engineer Plans and Preparations 59 

Engineer Amphibian Brigades 64 

The Landings 68 

The Assessment 78 

V. THE TUNISIAN CAMPAIGN 83 

Aviation Engineer Support 85 

Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricants Supply 91 

Ground Support 94 

Mine Clearing 100 

Water Supply 107 

Camouflage 108 

Maps 109 

Command Reorganizations 110 

ix 



Chapter P a g e 

Atlantic Base Section Ill 

Mediterranean Base Section 112 

Eastern Base Section 113 

VI. SICILY: THE BEACHHEAD 115 

Plans and Preparations 118 

Training 1 20 

D-day 125 

Joss Beaches 127 

Dime Beaches 1 29 

Cent Beaches 132 

VII. SICILY: THE DRIVE TO MESSINA 136 

Supply Over the Beaches 137 

Corps and Army Support of Combat Engineers 139 

Maps and Camouflage 144 

Highway 120: The Road to Randazzo 145 

Highway 113: The Road to Messina 147 

Palermo 151 

VIII. FROM SALERNO TO THE VOLTURNO 153 

The Invasion 158 

A Campaign of Bridges 165 

Naples . . . 167 

Peninsular Base 171 

Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricants 173 

The Volturno Crossings 174 

IX. THE WINTER LINE AND THE ANZIO BEACHHEAD 180 

Minefields in the M ountains 181 

Bridge Building and Road Work 183 

Engineers in Combat 188 

At Cassino: 20-29 January 1944 190 

Anzio 192 

X. THE ADVANCE TO THE ALPS 200 

Reorganization 200 

The Offensive Resumed 208 

TheArno 211 

The Winter Stalemate 214 

The Final Drive 216 



X 



Chapter Page 

The Shortage of Engineers 222 

Training 224 

Engineer Supply 226 

Mapping and Intelligence 227 

Camouflage 230 

XI. ENGINEERS IN THE PENINSULAR BASE SECTION 232 

Port Rehabilitation 234 

Petroleum: From Tanker to Truck 238 

Tasks of Base Section Engineers 242 

PBS Supply and Maintenance 251 

XII. REVIVING BOLERO IN THE UNITED KINGDOM 256 

The Continuing Problem of Organization 257 

New Supply Procedures 259 

Construction 261 

The Manpower Shortage 269 

Engineers at the Depots 271 

XIII. LOOKING AHEAD TO THE CONTINENT 277 

Engineer PROCO Projects 277 

Planning for Construction on the Continent 280 

Refinements in Overlords Operation 286 

Joint Stockpiling With the British 288 

Training 289 

Maps for the Invasion 293 

XIV. PREPARING FOR D-DAY LANDINGS 299 

The American Beaches 299 

Beach Obstacle Teams 304 

The Engineer Special Brigades 308 

Assault Training and Rehearsals 310 

Marshaling the Invasion Force 313 

Embarkation 317 

XV. THE LANDINGS ON OMAHA AND UTAH 319 

Engineers on Omaha 319 

Opening the Exits 326 

Utah 332 



XI 



Chapter Page 

XVI. DEVELOPING BEACHES AND RECONSTRUCTING 

PORTS 340 

Small Ports Near the Beaches 344 

COM2 on the Continent 349 

Cherbourg 352 

Granville and the Minor Brittany Ports 358 

The Seine Ports: Le Havre and Rouen 360 

Antwerp and Ghent 363 

XVII. COMBAT ENGINEERS IN THE BREAKOUT AND 

PURSUIT 367 

The Road to Coutances 368 

The Road to Periers 370 

The Road to St. Lo 371 

VII Corps Engineers in the Cobra Breakthrough 376 

VIII Corps Engineers Aid the War of Movement 377 

Siege Operations in Brittany . 381 

The Seine Crossings 385 

Beyond the Seine 389 

XVIII. SUPPORTING A WAR OF MOVEMENT IN NORTHERN 

FRANCE 393 

Highways 393 

Railways 397 

The ADSEC Engineer Groups 401 

Pipelines 405 

The Minor POL System 406 

The Major POL System 409 

The New POL Organization 411 

XIX. BREACHING GERMANY'S BARRIERS 414 

The Siegfried Line . 414 

VII Corps South of Aachen 415 

XIX Corps North of Aachen 420 

The Siege of Aachen 421 

From the Moselle to the Soar 423 

The Moselle Crossings at Mailing and Cattenom 424 

The Bridge at Tkionville 426 

Advance to the Soar 429 

The Capture of the Saarlautern Bridge 430 

Assaulting Pillboxes on the Far Bank 431 

The Withdrawal 434 



xii 



Chapter f >a S e 

XX. SOUTHERN FRANCE 436 

The Landings 439 

Base Sections and SOLOC 448 

Railroads 45 1 

Map Supply 454 

Engineer Supply for the First French Army 454 

POL Operations 455 

Preparing To Cross the Rhine 469 

XXI. THE ARDENNES: ENGINEERS AS INFANTRY 461 

The Storm Breaks in the Schnee Eifel 462 

Blocking Sixth Panzer Army's Drive to the Meuse 467 

Delaying Fifth Panzer Army From the Our to the Meuse 474 

Stopping the German Seventh Army 480 

Engineers in NORDWIND 484 

Seventh Army Through the Siegfried Line 487 

After the Ardennes 488 

XXII. THE ROER CROSSING AND THE REMAGEN BRIDGE- 
HEAD 489 

The Roer Crossings 490 

The Ludendorff Bridge 499 

The Ferries 505 

The Treadway and Ponton Bridges 506 

Collapse of the Ludendorff Bridge 509 

The III Corps Bailey Bridge 513 

VII Corps, First Army, and V Corps Crossings 514 

XXIII. THE ASSAULT CROSSINGS OF THE RHINE 517 

Ninth Army at Rhemberg 517 

Over the Rhine 519 

The XII Corps Crossing at Oppenheim 525 

The VIII Corps Crossing at the Rhine Gorge 527 

The XX Corps Crossing at Mainz 530 

The Seventh Army Crossings 531 

The Rhine Crossings in Retrospect 535 

XXIV. INTO THE HEART OF GERMANY 537 

Ninth Army's Dash to the Elbe 538 

First Army's Drive to Leipzig and Beyond 54 1 

Third Army Reaches Austria 546 

xiii 



Chapter Page 

Seventh Army to the "Alpine Fortress" 550 

Support of Alsos 556 

XXV. CONCLUSION 560 

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 567 

GLOSSARY 570 

BASIC MILITARY MAP SYMBOLS 576 

INDEX 583 

Charts 

No. Page 

1. Office of the Chief Engineer, ETOUSA, 1 July 1942 27 

2. Theater Structure, AFHQ and NATOUSA, 8 February 1944 202 

3. Office of the Chief Engineer, MTOUSA, 28 January 1945 204 

4. Office of the Chief Engineer, ETOUSA, 1 August 1944 395 

5. Office of the Chief Engineer, ETOUSA, 1 October 1944 396 

Maps 

No. Page 

1. Iceland, 1943 16 

2. Organization of SOS in the United Kingdom, July 1942 30 

3. North African Beachheads, 8 November 1942 70 

4. Tunisia, 1943 95 

5. Sicilian Landing Areas, 10 July 1943 126 

6. Sicily, 1943 142 

7. Italy Invasion Plans 155 

8. Salerno Beaches, September 1943 160 

9. Anzio Beachhead, 22 January 1944 194 

10. Italy: Salerno to Rome 210 

11. Northern Italy 235 

12. Peninsular Base Section 243 

13. Engineer Supply Depots in the United Kingdom, March 1944 .... 273 

14. Major Training Sites in the United Kingdom 292 

xiv 



No. Page 

15. The Final OVERLORD Plan 301 

16. OMAHA Beach 321 

17. Utah Beach, June 1944 335 

18. Minor Ports in the OVERLORD Plan 345 

19. The Engineers in France: Normandy to the Seine, 1944 378 

20. Beyond the Seine, 1944 404 

21. Railways in Use and Red Ball Express, September 1944 406 

22. POL Pipelines, September 1944 411 

23. The Siegfried Line 416 

24. Southern France Beachheads, 15 August 1944 440 

25. Southern France: Supply Operations, August- 

November 1944 450 

26. POL Pipeline 456 

27. The Ardennes, 1944 468 

28. Roer River Crossing, 23 February 1945 493 

29. Crossing the Rhine, March 1945 522 

30. Engineers in Germany 543 

Illustrations 

Page 

Maj. Gen. Charles H. Bonesteel 12 

Construction Supplies at Reykjavik Harbor, October 1941 13 

Engineer Troops Dumping Fill at Meeks Field, Keflavik 14 

Maj. Gen. James E. Chaney, Ambassador John G. Winant, and 

Maj. Gen. Russell P. Hartle 18 

Maj. Gen. John C. H. Lee 25 

Brig. Gen. Thomas B. Larkin 29 

Lt. Col. Herbert Milwit 49 

Men of the 829th Engineer Aviation Battalion Erect Nissen Hutting ... 53 

Paving Train at an American Bomber Field in England 54 

Hospital Construction Employing Prefabricated Concrete 

Roof Trusses 57 

Maj. Gen. Daniel Noce 67 

Wrecked and Broached Landing Craft at Fedala, French Morocco .... 72 

Moroccan Labor Gang at Casablanca Harbor 81 

Col. Rudolph E. Smyser, Jr 91 

Gasoline Storage at Port-Lyautey 93 

German S-Mine 102 

Italian Bar Mines 103 



xv 



Page 

The SCR-625 Mine Detector in Action on a Tunisian Road 104 

Scorpion Tank Crew Loading Bangalore Torpedoes 106 

Ponton Causeway Extending From an LST to Shore 117 

Landing Heavy Equipment Over the Causeway at Scoglitti 134 

Construction Begins at Cape Calava To Close Gap Blown by 

Retreating Germans 150 

Maj. Gen. Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., Tests the Temporary Span 

at Cape Calava 151 

DUKWs Head for the Salerno Beaches 161 

LSTs and Auxiliary Ships Unload Men and Supply at Salerno 162 

Decking Placed Over Sunken Vessels in Naples Harbor 170 

Brig. Gen. Arthur W. Pence 171 

Engineer Officer Reads Pressure Gauges at Pumping Station 

at Foggia, Italy 174 

Wrecked M2 Floating Treadway on the Volturno 178 

Engineer Rock Quarry Near Mignano 189 

Removing German Charges From Buildings in Anzio 196 

Assembling M1A1 Antitank Mines at Anzio 198 

Brig. Gen. Dabney O. Elliott 207 

The Rising Arno River Threatens a Treadway Bridge 213 

Bailey Bridge Construction Over the Arno Near Florence 214 

Brig. Gen. Frank O. Bowman 217 

Engineers Bridging the Po River 219 

Raft Ferries a Tank Destroyer Across the Po 222 

Blasting Obstacles at Civitavecchia, June 1944 236 

Maj. Gen. Cecil R. Moore 259 

Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricants Depot, Lancashire 264 

Bulldozers at the Engineer Depot at Thatcham 280 

Engineer Crane Stacks Lumber at Thatcham, April 1944 281 

Models of Belgian Gates 290 

Wire Entanglements and Dragon's Teeth at the Assault 

Training Center, Woolacombe 29 1 

Engineer Mapmaker Uses a Multiplex 294 

Infantry Troops Leave LST During Exercise Fabius 311 

Col. Eugene M. Caffey 313 

Tanks and Vehicles Stalled at the Shingle Line on OMAHA Beach 322 

Engineers Anchor Reinforced Track at OMAHA 329 

Teller Mine 336 

Roads Leading off the Beaches 338 

Tetrahedrons at OMAHA Beach 341 

Twisted Sections of Lobnitz Piers at Omaha Beach 343 

xvi 



Page 

Coaster With a Cargo of Gasoline Unloads at Isigny 348 

Gasoline Being Pumped Ashore at Cherbourg 358 

Clearing the Mouth of the Locks at St. Malo 361 

Engineers Assemble an Explosive-Laden "Snake" 380 

3d Armored Division Vehicles Cross the Seine River 387 

French Barges Support Bailey Bridging Over the Seine 388 

982d Engineer Maintenance Company Welds Six-Inch Pipeline 391 

Col. Emerson C. Itschner 394 

Decanting Area on the Oil Pipeline in Antwerp 412 

Rigging Charges to Demolish Dragon's Teeth 417 

Bulldozer Seals Bunkers Outside Aachen 419 

Troops Float Footbridge Sections Into Place on the Moselle 426 

Heavy Ponton Bridge at Uckange 428 

Brig. Gen. Garrison H. Davidson 438 

Mine Removal at Camel Red 445 

Probing for Explosive Charge at Marseille 448 

The Aix Bridge 453 

Engineers Drop Barbed-Wire Rolls To Prepare Defensive 

Positions 465 

Placing Charges To Drop Trees Across Roadways 475 

Road Maintenance Outside Wiltz, Belgium 477 

Installing a Bridge on the 111 River 486 

Engineers Emplace Mats To Stabilize the Banks of the Roer 491 

2d Armored Division Tanks Cross the Roer Into Juelich 495 

Footbridge on the Roer 498 

The Ludendorff Rail Bridge at Remagen 501 

Pontons Loaded for Transport to Remagen 508 

Wreckage of the Ludendorff Bridge After Its Collapse 512 

89th Division Infantry Cross the Rhine at Oberwesel 521 

Engineers Slide Bailey Bridging Into Place at Wesel 524 

Men Connect Bridge Sections Near St. Goar 529 

M2 Treadway Bridge on the Rhine at Boppard 530 

Heavy Ponton Bridge in the Seventh Army Area 534 

Hauling a Tank Across the Saale River 545 

Pontons Headed for the Danube 549 

All illustrations are from Department of Defense files. 



xvii 



THE CORPS OF ENGINEERS: 
THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



CHAPTER I 



Introduction 



On the eve of American involvemertt 
in World War II, the U.S. Army Corps 
of Engineers had 150 years of experi- 
ence in national wars and in statutory 
assignment to civil works projects out- 
side the Army. Its veteran officers could 
hark back to an unprecedented perfor- 
mance in World War I, when the Corps 
had expanded from 2,454 officers and 
enlisted men to nearly 300,000 — 
174,000 in France alone when the Armi- 
stice was signed. 1 

In unexpected measure their works 
on the Continent from 1917 to 1919 
enlarged upon traditional engineer 
functions, especially as they applied to 
facilitating troop movement. In several 
ports where the French government 
turned over wharfage to incoming 
American forces, the 17th and 18th 
Engineer Regiments, two of the first 
nine engineer regiments to arrive, con- 
structed additions to docks, erected 
depots, and then laid new rail lines link- 
ing the facilities to the French national 
system and the Zone of the Advance 
that included the front line itself. An 



1 Historical Report of the Chief Engineer, American 
Expeditionary Forces, 1917-1919 (Washington, 1919), 
pp. 12-13. The report excludes from the engineer 
troop strength in France the separate Transportation 
Corps, another 60,000 men who functioned only indi- 
rectly under the chief engineer of the American Expe- 
ditionary Forces. 



entire regiment spent the war in for- 
estry operations, providing much of the 
lumber for rail ties, housing, and hospi- 
tals for the American Expeditionary 
Forces. In forward areas engineers 
braved the same fire as the infantry to 
build narrow-gauge rail nets for sup- 
ply and troop movement, to dig com- 
plex trench systems, to string wire, to 
install bridging, and even to engage the 
enemy. Engineer flash- and sound- 
ranging equipment helped direct coun- 
terbattery artillery fire. Chemical engi- 
neers, the forerunners of an indepen- 
dent postwar Chemical Corps, released 
gas employed against the Germans in 
the trenches and developed protective 
devices and procedures against enemy 
gas attacks. Elaborate camouflage 
screens and nets manufactured and 
painted with the help of French labor 
masked American equipment and con- 
cealed preparations for forthcoming 
operations. 

Falling within the usual definitions 
of engineer work in war, these activi- 
ties covered a far wider technical range 
than ever before in American military 
engineering experience. So complex 
and extensive had the operations be- 
come, in fact, that one regimental 
commander declared that the military 
engineer had died and his close rela- 
tive, the civil engineer, had taken his 



4 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



place. 2 For all their accomplishments 
in forging smooth lines of communica- 
tions from the rear to the front and in 
providing invaluable services between, 
the engineers fought in a war distin- 
guished by the lack of forward move- 
ment of the front itself until the final 
months of the conflict. 

Events in Europe in the spring of 
1940 effectively demonstrated that har- 
nessing the internal combustion engine 
to new tactics gave much more range 
and speed to military operations. 3 The 
German defeat of France in six weeks 
and the narrow escape of the British 
Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk proved 
the superiority of the Wehrmacht. Coor- 
dinated with aerial attacks that de- 
stroyed ground obstacles and threw 
enemy rear areas into confusion, 
massed armor assaults on narrow fronts 
offered the antidote to static trench 
warfare and allowed rapid decision on 
the battlefield. 

German success with these tactics and 
the subsequent bombing campaign 
against Great Britain converted a fitful 
American rearmament into a real mo- 
bilization. Congress appropriated more 
funds for national defense than the 
Army could readily absorb with its lim- 
ited plans to defend the western hemi- 
sphere from Axis infiltration or overt 
military advances in 1940. Like the rest 
of the Army under this largesse, the en- 
gineers accelerated their recovery from 
twenty years of impoverishment. 
Though the Corps had been heavily 
committed to civil works through the two 



2 William B. Parsons, American Engineers in France 
(New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1920), p. 5. 

3 Ll. Col. Paul W. Thompson, What You Should Know 
About The Army Engineers (New York: W. W. Norton & 
Company, 1942), pp. 9-10. 



preceding decades, its separate military 
units were few and scattered across the 
continental United States and its over- 
seas possessions. Given time to develop 
additional combat and support units 
along older organizational lines, the 
engineers could expand as they had in 
World War I and take up again their 
recognized general functions of bridge, 
rail, and road construction or main- 
tenance; port rehabilitation; and more 
specialized work in camouflage, water 
supply, map production, mine warfare, 
forestry, and the administrative work 
necessary to support combat forces. But 
even if engineer elements remained 
divided into general and special units, 
the engineers could not simply reacti- 
vate old units under this framework in 
anticipation of a new conflict. The mod- 
ern method of war generated new mis- 
sions and demanded new organiza- 
tional structures, new units, and new 
types of equipment to accommodate the 
revolution in tactics. 

A reorganization of the Army was 
already under way. 4 Field testing of 
revisions in the basic organization of 
the infantry division began in 1937 with 
a reduction of infantry regiments from 
four to three to create a flexible and 
more easily maneuvered force. The 
organic engineer unit in the smaller 
division was a battalion rather than an 
engineer combat regiment. Numerical 
strength varied in the experiments, but 
three companies became the eventual 
standard for engineer battalions as- 
signed to infantry divisions. Respond- 



4 Blanche D. Coll, Jean E. Keith, and Herbert E. 
Rosenthal, The Corps of Engineers: Troops and Equipment, 
Unite d States Ar my in World War II (Washington, 
1958), | pp. 1—63 J Unless otherwise noted, the follow- 
ing is based on this source. 



INTRODUCTION 



5 



ing to events in Europe in 1940, the 
Army also developed two armored divi- 
sions from its small, scattered and ex- 
perimental, mechanized and armored 
elements and provided each division 
with an organic engineer battalion, 
eventually numbering 712 men. In imi- 
tation of the German organization for 
panzer divisions, the American engi- 
neer armored unit had four companies, 
one a bridge company equipped with a 
large variety of military bridging. A 
reconnaissance platoon of the bat- 
talion's headquarters company was to 
scout ahead of the advancing division 
to determine the need for bridge and 
demolition work or the best detours 
around obstacles. 

Engineer regiments, either for gen- 
eral service or for combat support, sur- 
vived as separate entities attached to 
field armies or to corps headquarters. 
Consisting of two battalions and vari- 
ous supporting companies, these larger 
units assumed many of the rear-area 
tasks formerly left to divisional units. 
The more heavily equipped general ser- 
vice regiment was to perform general 
construction, maintenance, or bridge 
work on main routes of communi- 
cations, and military construction once 
the engineers assumed that responsibil- 
ity from the Quartermaster Corps. The 
combat regiment, with twenty-four 
machine guns in its normal equipment, 
was more heavily armed for work in 
the combat zone but had less heavy 
machinery than the general service 
regiment. It was particularly suited to 
support divisional units in forward 
areas and had a special role in large- 
scale assault river crossings. 5 



5 Thompson, What You Should Know About the Army 
Engineers, pp. 61 — 62. 



Experiments produced new equip- 
ment for the revised engineer organiza- 
tions. In the search for easily trans- 
ported and rapidly emplaced bridging, 
the armored force engineers copied the 
German inflatable ponton system and 
produced a 25 -ton ponton treadway 
bridge for tanks. Other tests showed 
the British-designed Bailey bridge to 
be lighter and more adaptable to a war 
of movement than the standard Ameri- 
can H— 10 and H— 20 girder bridges. 
Repeated experience with construction 
equipment convinced the engineers of 
the value of heavier and larger bull- 
dozers, scrapers, cranes, and trucks, 
though the conflicting demands of the 
American industrial mobilization often 
made these items hard to procure in 
the desired quantities. As a result, an 
engineer unit Table of Organization 
and Equipment (TOE) immediately 
before American entry into the war 
called for much less heavy equipment 
than eventually proved necessary. De- 
mands for additional heavy equipment 
of new design arose as the engineers 
encountered conditions that overtaxed 
the standard machinery they brought 
with them to the theaters of war. A new 
battery-operated magnetic mine detec- 
tor enabled the engineers rapidly to 
unearth mines that impeded the ad- 
vance of friendly troops, but there was 
little advance intelligence on the nature 
of Axis mines or the doctrine govern- 
ing German mine warfare. Engineer 
map production techniques improved 
remarkably with the use of aerial pho- 
tography employing specialized multi- 
lens cameras and multiplex interpreta- 
tion systems. 

Given the heavy use of tactical avia- 
tion and the then-current theories of 
bombardment aviation, the engineers 



6 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



also expected to support the Army Air 
Forces in any future conflict. Established 
immediately after the spring maneu- 
vers of 1940, the engineer aviation regi- 
ment (66 officers and 2,200 enlisted 
men) consisted of three battalions that 
could be employed independently. 
Within two years of its inception, the 
unit had the highly specialized mission 
of constructing large rear-area bomber 
bases and hasty forward fields for tacti- 
cal aircraft. The regiment carried with 
it all the necessary earth-moving, pav- 
ing, and construction machinery and 
was adequately armed to thwart an 
enemy airborne attack on the installa- 
tion under construction. The unit used 
another idea from abroad — long, nar- 
row steel plank sections, perforated to 
reduce their weight and linked together 
to form temporary runways on poor or 
unstable soil. 

The motorization and mechanization 
of modern armies and the addition of 
aerial components dictated increased 
consumption of gasoline and oil in 
future operations. The engineers met 
this likelihood with another innovation 
that eventually proved its value in the 
theaters of war in North Africa and 
Europe. The Quartermaster Corps had 
distributed petroleum products in con- 
tainers transported to using troops by 
rail and truck. Though the engineers 
did not displace this method entirely, 
they took over and improved pipelines 
to lessen the load on vehicles in combat 
and communications zones. A highly 
specialized unit, the engineer petro- 



leum distribution company, came into 
existence to build and operate pipelines 
from major ports to the immediate rear 
areas of the field armies. 

An engineer role in amphibious war- 
fare was not considered until shortly 
before the Japanese attack on Pearl 
Harbor. In all the likely arenas of the 
obviously approaching war, an advanc- 
ing army would have to move across 
expanses of open water. In the Pacific, 
where the American possessions and 
the Japanese homeland were islands, 
the ability to seize objectives depended 
upon operations across beaches. In 
Europe, it was apparent by mid- 1940 
that Axis control of every major port 
would make similar operations nec- 
essary. Though the Army began am- 
phibious training for two infantry divi- 
sions in June 1940 and established a 
research committee to examine possi- 
ble roles for amphibian engineers, spe- 
cial units for the purpose were still in 
the future. 6 

By mid- 1941, the Corps of Engineers 
had embarked upon an ambitious pro- 
gram of revising its military units and 
equipment. Though not fully ready to 
fight in an overseas theater, the engi- 
neers had done much to adapt to the 
realities of modern combat and combat 
support. This process continued as a 
shadow American staff structure took 
shape in England. 



6 Coll, Keith, and Rosenthal , The Corps of Engineers: 
Troops and Equipment] p. 357. 1 



CHAPTER II 



The Engineers Cross the Atlantic 

1941-1942 



In the late spring of 1941 a few 
American officers in civilian clothes 
slipped into London and established a 
small headquarters in a building near 
the American embassy on Grosvenor 
Square. They might have been attaches 
of the embassy, as far as the general 
public could tell. Their name, Special 
Observer Group (SPOBS), like their 
attire, concealed rather than expressed 
their functions, for they had much 
more urgent business than to act as neu- 
tral observers of the military effort of a 
friendly nation at war. They were organ- 
ized as a military staff complete with 
G-l (personnel), G— 2 (intelligence), 
G— 3 (plans and operations), and G— 4 
(logistics and supply), together with a 
full complement of special staff officers. 
The group was located in England so 
that close liaison with the British High 
Command would be in effect should 
American quasi-neutrality suddenly 
shift into active belligerence. The group's 
mission was to coordinate plans, so far 
as circumstances permitted, for Ameri- 
can participation in the war, and to 
receive, house, and equip American 
forces. 

The engineer officer of the Special 
Observer Group was Lt. Col. Donald 
A. Davison, who had been the General 



Headquarters (GHQ) Air Force staff 
engineer in Washington. 1 Barely a year 
had passed since Colonel Davison had 
organized the 21st Engineer Aviation 
Regiment, the Army's first engineer avi- 
ation unit. He was an obvious choice 
for the SPOBS staff, for the group was 
to be concerned first of all with plan- 
ning facilities for future air operations 
and air defense. The emphasis on air 
power was apparent also in the choice 
of Maj. Gen. James E. Chaney, AC, to 
head the group, and of Brig. Gen. 
Joseph T. McNarney, AC, as General 
Chaney's chief of staff. 

The Special Observer Group at first 
numbered eighteen officers and eleven 
enlisted men. While the task of plan- 
ning the transportation of U.S. Army 
troops, their location in the United 
Kingdom, and their shelter involved the 
entire SPOBS staff and their opposites 
in the British Army, much of the work 
fell to the engineer officer. Construc- 
tion planning for the U.S. Army in the 
British Isles was the responsibility of 
five officers: General McNarney; Lt. 
Col. George W. Griner, Jr., ACofS, 
G-4; Lt. Col. John E. Dahlquist, ACofS, 



1 Promoted to colonel 26 June 1941 and to briga- 
dier general on 16 April 1942. 



8 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



G-l; Lt. Col. Charles L. Bolte, ACofS 
for Plans; and Colonel Davison. In 
November 1941 Colonel Davison also 
began to function as a member of a 
new technical committee, which repre- 
sented an expansion of the duties of 
the Special Observer Group and a step 
toward closer liaison with the British. 

Reconnaissance 

For many weeks in 1941, Davison and 
officers of the group toured those areas 
to which American forces would be sent 
if the United States entered the war. 
SPOBS activities were guided by the 
basic American war plan, RAINBOW— 5, 
and an agreement designated ABC — 1, 
which resulted from meetings held 
early in 1941 by representatives of the 
British Chiefs of Staff, the Chief of Staff 
of the U.S. Army, and the U.S. Chief 
of Naval Operations. Features of 
ABC— 1 relating specifically to initial 
American activities in the European 
theater included provisions for the de- 
fense of bases in Scotland and Northern 
Ireland to be used by U.S. naval forces, 
the establishment of a U.S. bomber 
command to operate from England, the 
dispatch of a U.S. token force for the 
defense of Britain, and American relief 
of the British garrison in Iceland. 

Between 27 May and 21 November 



2 Capt S. J. Thurman et al., The Special Observer 
Group Prior to the Activation of the European The- 
ater of Operations, Oct 44, OCE, ETOUSA, Hist Sect; 
Henry G. Elliott, The Administrative and Logistical 
History of the European Theater of Operations, vol. 
I, "The Predecessor Commands: The Special Observ- 
ers (SPOBS) and the United States Army Forces in 
the British Isles (USAFBI)," Mar 46, in CMH; Roland 
G. Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies, Volume 
I: May 194 1 -September 1944, United States Army in 
World War II (Washington, 1953), pp. 13-11 3. Unless 
otherwise indicated, this chapter is based on these 
sources. 



1941, representatives of the Special 
Observer Group attended eight meet- 
ings of the Operational Planning Sec- 
tion of the British Joint Planning Staff; 
the group had its first meeting with the 
British Air Ministry on 6 June. These 
meetings promoted practical coopera- 
tion between the SPOBS staff and Brit- 
ish officers. Soon after the 27 May 
meeting the British War Office submit- 
ted a list of questions to General Chaney 
concerning accommodations for U.S. 
troops. This questionnaire brought up 
many points considered in detail by 
officers who in the summer and fall of 
1941 inspected areas in Northern Ire- 
land, Scotland, and Kent where the 
token force probably would be located. 
The British had already undertaken 
much of the construction necessary for 
the accommodation of American troops 
in those areas, but much more needed 
to be done to extend and improve roads 
and to provide housing and other nec- 
essary structures for the troops. 

The rush of events following Pearl 
Harbor outdated the recommendations 
and detailed planning that resulted 
from these tours. Colonel Davison and 
the other SPOBS officers nevertheless 
obtained valuable information concern- 
ing resources, equipment, housing, and 
British methods. Most important, the 
inspection tours promoted the practi- 
cal teamwork with the British that was 
later so essential to the war effort. After 
the inspection tour of Northern Ire- 
land in July 1941, the surveyers reported 
to the War Department that the chief 
engineering problem in Ulster was to 
provide housing for the approximately 
27,000 troops envisaged in RAIN- 
BOW-5. The British would be able to 
supply all the Nissen huts required, and 
crushed rock and cement could be 



THE ENGINEERS CROSS THE ATLANTIC, 1941-1942 



9 



obtained in England. 3 Lumber and 
quarrying machinery were scarce, how- 
ever, and hardware would have to come 
from the United States. One engineer 
aviation battalion and a general service 
or combat engineer regiment would be 
needed to do general construction and 
airfield maintenance. 4 

The plans for Northern Ireland were 
eventually carried out with minor de- 
viations, but this was not the case for 
most of the other areas surveyed in the 
United Kingdom. After American entry 
into the war the bases in Northern Ire- 
land became more important than those 
in Scotland as a new war strategy gave 
less relative weight to air defense and 
offense and more to preparations for 
invasion of the Continent. 

The SPOBS officers surveyed three 
widely separated sites for prospective 
Army installations in Scotland: Gare 
Loch, Loch Ryan, and Ayr Airdrome. 
SPOBS estimated that new construction 
would be necessary to support some 
6,000 troops: about 860 Nissens for 
housing; a hospital at Ayr; and 27 stor- 
age Nissens distributed among the three 
areas. An American contractor was then 
at work on U.S. Navy installations at 
Gare Loch and Loch Ryan at opposite 
ends of the Firth of Clyde. In view of 
the serious labor problem in the United 
Kingdom, the officers suggested three 
alternatives: concluding an agreement 
with the Navy to extend its contracts to 
cover the Army construction; letting 
new Army contracts with the same com- 
panies; or shipping one engineer gen- 



J The Nissen hut was a prefabricated half cylinder 
of corrugated iron with a cement floor. It was named 
after its designer, Lt. Col. P. N. Nissen (1871 - 1930). 

4 Annex 4 (Engr) to Rpt on Northern Ireland, Spe- 
cial Observer Group, 3 Sep 41, Hist Sect, Intel Div, 
OCE ETOUSA. 



eral service regiment to Scotland ahead 
of the first convoy to put up the hospi- 
tal and troop barracks using British 
Nissen huts. 

The proposed token force area in 
England lay southeast of London, near 
Wrotham in Kent. SPOBS officers 
checked the site during late August and 
early September, recommending that 
an engineer unit, with a planned 
strength of 543 men of the 7,600 in the 
token force, bring all TOE equipment. 
Engineers in this district would support 
an infantry regiment in the field, build 
many new roads, and maintain or widen 
the narrow, winding roads in the area. 
The SPOBS report pointed out that 
supplies for the building of field fortifi- 
cations and obstacles should be sent 
from the United States. 

SPOBS officers also inspected a con- 
templated supply or base area near Bir- 
mingham and a proposed bomber com- 
mand site in Huntingdonshire, both in 
the Midlands. General Chaney sent to 
the War Department in the summer 
and fall of 1941 a series of reports, 
based largely on studies and estimates 
prepared by Colonel Davison, that sum- 
med up the surveys from an engineer- 
ing standpoint. A report of 17 Decem- 
ber 1941 summarized Colonel Davison's 
recommendations for construction. Al- 
though dated ten days after Pearl Har- 
bor, the report was based on the earlier 
concept of air strategy that had gov- 
erned all SPOBS activity in the United 
Kingdom in 1941. 



5 OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 7, Field and Service Force 
Construction (United Kingdom), 1946, pp. 16—18, 
Liaison Sect, Intel Div, ETOUSA Adm file 547. This 
is one of twenty historical reports prepared by the 
OCE Intelligence Division during 1945-46. 

li Summary of Annex 4 to Rpt on Token Force Area, 
4 Sep 41, AG 381 -Kent 'Area, Token Force, OCE 
ETOUSA Hist Records. 



10 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



Unlike the earlier ones, the 17 Decem- 
ber report took for granted the arrival 
of American troops in Britain. Britain's 
limited material and labor resources 
were already severely strained, and it 
was obvious that supplemental Ameri- 
can labor and materials would be 
needed. Starting construction before 
the troops arrived was essential, but the 
threat of enemy submarines and a ship- 
ping shortage dictated moving only a 
minimum of materials from the United 
States. Since troop labor was desirable 
only if civilian labor was not available, 
the final report pointed out that the 
War Department would have to deter- 
mine policy, proportions of skilled and 
unskilled civilian and troop labor, and 
many details relating to materials, con- 
tracts, and transportation. Matters relat- 
ing to sites, construction details, and 
utilities would have to be handled in 
the United Kingdom. 7 

The report provided figures on hous- 
ing already available together with esti- 
mates of housing that would have to be 
built. Somewhat more than 1 1,000 stan- 
dard 16-by-36-foot quartering huts were 
needed, as well as nearly 500 40-by- 100- 
foot storage and shop buildings, and 
442 ordnance igloos. Buildings for 
10,000 hospital beds would also have 
to be built. Hard-surface paving con- 
struction for airfield access roads and 
for aircraft hardstandings added up to 
182 miles. 

Colonel Davison was better ac- 
quainted than anyone else with the 
engineering problems that the Army 
had to face in Britain and had studied 
all the proposed sites in detail. He knew 



7 Summaries of SPOBS Planning, pp. 16-24; Rpt, 
Chaney to TAG, 17 Dec 41, AG 381 (Great Britain, 
U.S. troops in UK), OCE ETOUSA Hist Records. 



the views of the SPOBS staff and those 
of the British War Office. Accordingly, 
on General Chaney's recommendation, 
he went to Washington in January 1942 
to help plan the movement of troops 
and their accommodation in Britain. 8 

Iceland 

In June 1941 SPOBS engineers also 
undertook a survey of locations in Ice- 
land, where an American occupation 
was imminent. Construction of facili- 
ties began before Pearl Harbor as Am- 
ericans moved in July 1941 to replace 
the British on the island. 9 

Iceland had great strategic impor- 
tance. The British occupied the island 
in May 1940 to prevent its seizure by 
the Germans, in whose hands it would 
have formed a base for attack on English 
soil and on the British shipping lifeline. 
Britain had acted quickly to develop air 
and naval bases in Iceland to protect 
the North Atlantic convoy routes. Yet 
by the summer of 1941 British reverses 
in the western Sahara prompted plans 
to withdraw the Iceland garrison for 
use in the desert and elsewhere. Talks 
begun in February 1941 during the 
British- American ABC— 1 meeting set 
the stage for a timely invitation from 
the Icelandic Althing (Parliament) for 
American troops to replace the British. 
Thus, belligerent Britain proposed to 
leave the defense of neutral Iceland to 
the quasi-neutral United States. 10 



" Msg 24, Chaney to TAG, 22 fan 42, Northern 
Ireland Const Prog, OCE ETOUSA Hist Records. 

!l On the planning for and occupation of Iceland in 
1941, see Stetson Conn, Rose C. Engelman, and Byron 
Fairchild, Guarding the United States and /if Outpost;, 
United States Army in World War II (Washington, 
1964), pp. 459-531. 

10 Lt Col William L. Thorkelson, "The Occupation 
of Iceland During World War II, Including the Post 



THE ENGINEERS CROSS THE ATLANTIC, 1941-1942 



11 



On 11 June 1941, Colonel Davison 
and seven officers arrived on the island 
and by 18 June could report that from 
an engineering standpoint Iceland had 
little to offer. Without trees there was 
no lumber. Practically all supplies had 
to move through the poorly equipped 
port of Reykjavik. Ships exceeding 470 
feet in length and 2 1 feet in draft could 
not moor alongside the two quays that 
served the harbor. The climate offered 
a mean winter temperature of 30°F 
and a summer mean of 52°F, but rain- 
fall of nearly fifty inches a year and 
midwinter winds of eighty miles per 
hour made working and living condi- 
tions severe. Only volcanic rock, gravel, 
and sand were abundant on the bleak 
island. Two airdromes built by the Brit- 
ish were usable immediately but re- 
quired work to conform to American 
standards and expansion to accommo- 
date heavier American traffic. Added 
to Reykjavik Field in the city itself and 
the Kaldadharnes Airdrome, some 
thirty-five miles southeast of the capital, 
were other rudimentary fields such as 
Keflavik, on a windswept point of land 
twenty-five miles southwest of Reykja- 
vik. A grass field with a runway 1,000 
yards long and 50 yards wide, it was 
suitable for emergency use only. The 
SPOBS officers believed that another 



War Economic and Social Effects," M. A. Thesis, Syra- 
cuse University, 1949, pp. 16-17, in CMH. Iceland 
authorities, doubtful about Britain's staying power in 
the war with Germany, had already approached the 
American Consul in Iceland in December 1940 with 
suggestions for including Iceland within the "Monroe 
Doctrine area." Thurman, The Special Observer 
Group Prior to the Activation of the European The- 
ater of Operations, p. 49; The Adm and Log Hist of 
the ETO, vol. I, "The Predecessor Commands," pp. 
36—37; Wesley F. Craven and James L. Cate, eds., 
"The U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II," vol. I, 
Plans and Early Operations: J anuary 1 939 to August 1942 
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948), pp. 
122-23, 342-48. 



site sixty miles southeast of the capital, 
known as the Oddi Airdrome, gave 
promise of immediate development. 
Two other fields were too remote even 
to be visited on the hasty tour: Melgerdhi 
in the north, 13 1/2 miles from Akureyri, 
and another emergency field at Hoefn 
in the southeast. 

Voluminous, if spotty, collections of 
similar data reached Washington from 
military and naval teams scanning the 
island's facilities. A Navy party came 
over from Greenland looking for likely 
naval air patrol bases, and another 
Army-Marine Corps party arrived after 
Colonel Davison's departure. General 
Chaney sent the SPOBS report to Wash- 
ington with Lt. Col. George W. Griner, 
Jr., the SPOBS G— 4 who had accompa- 
nied Davison. War Department plan- 
ners compiled the information for the 
projected occupation of Iceland under 
the code name INDIGO. 11 

After some changes in planning and 
a revision in the concept of the opera- 
tion that committed American troops 
to the reinforcement and not to the 
relief of the British 49th Infantry Divi- 
sion on the island, a convoy with the 
4,400 officers and enlisted men of the 
1st Provisional Brigade (Marines) under 
Brig. Gen. John Marston, USMC, ar- 
rived at Reykjavik on 7 July 1941, Army 
engineer troops reached that port on 6 
August 1941 as part of the first eche- 
lon of Task Force 4 (92 officers and 



" Thorkelson, "Occupation of Iceland," p. 5; Rpt, 
Maj Gen James E. Chaney to CofEngrs, HQ, SPOBS, 
19 Jun 41, partially quoted in OCE ETOUSA Hist 
Rpt 17, Engineering in Iceland, Aug 45, app. 2, Liai- 
son Sect, Intel Div, ETOUSA Adm file 547; The Adm 
and Log Hist of the ETO, vol. I, "The Predecessor 
Commands," pp. 40 — 45. An emergency field was 
eventually built near Oddi. Rpt, Oddi Emergency 
Strip, Construction and Installation, Aug 42 — 45; 
Conn, Engelman, and Fairchild, Guarding the United 
States and Its Outposts, pp. 472-73. 



12 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 




General Bonesteel 



1,125 enlisted men), the first U.S. Army 
contingent to reach Iceland. The force 
consisted of the 33d Pursuit Squadron, 
which flew in from the U.S.S. Wasp 
offshore; an air base squadron; and a 
number of special service detachments 
to contribute to the air defense of Ice- 
land. Engineer elements were two com- 
panies of the 21st Engineer Aviation 
Regiment, soon to be redesignated the 
824th Engineer Aviation Battalion. On 
16 September 1941, the 2d Battalion, 
5th Engineer Combat Regiment, arrived 
with the second echelon of Task Force 
4; the entire American force in Iceland 
became the Iceland Base Command on 
the same day. The command, under 
Maj. Gen. Charles H. Bonesteel, re- 
mained directly subordinate to the field 
force commander in Washington, Gen- 
eral George C. Marshall. Because of 
British strategic responsibility for Ice- 
land, General Chaney continued to 
argue for the inclusion of the Ameri- 



can garrison in Iceland under his con- 
trol, but his viewpoint did not prevail 
until the summer of the following year. 12 

During the first days in Iceland, the 
engineer troops lived in tents previously 
erected by the Marines, and other units 
moved into Nissen huts provided by the 
British. For a few days after the land- 
ing of the 2d Battalion, 5th Engineer 
Combat Regiment, there was consider- 
able confusion. The base engineer, Lt. 
Col. Clarence N. Iry, who had come 
with the Marine brigade, reported much 
equipment broken by careless loading 
and handling. The material and spe- 
cialized equipment for an entire refrig- 
erated warehouse were damaged be- 
yond recovery. Navy pressure for quick 
unloading did not improve matters 
since there was no covered storage 
space in Reykjavik waterfront areas and 
too little dump space elsewhere. In the 
confusion the property of various units 
went widely astray; several weeks passed 
before the engineer battalion located 
all its belongings and assembled them 
in one place. 13 

The engineers took up a building, 
repair, and maintenance program well 
begun by the British. At first their work 
supplemented that of the Royal En- 
gineers, and not until late in 1942 did 
they replace their British counterparts 

12 Rpt, Maj Gen C. H. Bonesteel to AG, WD, 30 Apr 
43, sub: Report on Historical Data, Overseas Bases, 
314.7 Hist, 1942-43; The Adm and Log Hist of the 
ETO, vol. 1, "The Predecessor Commands," pp. 
43-50; Rpt, Base Engr in GHQ, U.S. Army, Indigo, 
to the Engr, 1 Sep 41, OCE 381 (Indigo) Gr Pt; IBC 
Record of Events, 14 Jul 41 -20 Jun 42, p. 16; OCE 
ETOUSA Hist Rpt 17, Engineering in Iceland, pp. 
8-9; Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies, Vol- 
ume I, p. 1 9. 

13 Ltr, Lt Col Iry to Col George Mayo, CE, 10 Aug 
41, E 381 (Indigo) 89, WD, OQMG; Rpt, Base Engr 
in GHQ, U.S. Army, Indigo, to the Engr, 1 Sep 41; 
1 st Lt Walter H. Heldt (commanding 2 1st Engrs [Avn]) 
to CO, HQ, IBCAF, 314.7 Hist Records, 1941-43. 



THE ENGINEERS CROSS THE ATLANTIC, 1941-1942 



13 





Construction Supplies at Reykjavik Harbor, October 1941 



entirely. But the main construction 
activities of the war years were already 
evident: building airdromes, improving 
communications and supply facilities, 
and constructing adequate camp and 
hospital accommodations. The pro- 
gram, originally limited to the more set- 
tled part of Iceland in the vicinity of 
Reykjavik, extended gradually to re- 
mote regions along the northern and 
eastern coasts. 

The principal problems of construc- 
tion lay in the forbidding terrain, high 
winds, poor communications, and the 
consequent difficulties of supply. Out- 
side the southwestern corner of the 
country, the roads — or the lack of 
them — made long-distance hauling of 
bulk supplies impossible. Iceland had 
no railroads. Though most shipments 



funneled through Reykjavik and then 
moved on to these outposts by smaller 
craft, vessels from the United States 
occasionally touched at Akureyri, 
Seydhisfjordhur and Budhareyri, ports 
that had remained ice free year-round 
since 1918. Other than the rock, sand, 
and gravel obtained locally, all engineer 
supplies came from the United States 
and Britain. Nissen hutting, coal, and 
coke were the principal supplies from 
Britain; the Boston Portof Embarka- 
tion handled the remainder of the Ice- 
land garrison's needs including the inte- 
rior fittings for the huts and any neces- 
sary equipment. 14 



14 Rad, Navy Dept to AG, for Gross from Consul 
Reykjavik. 2 1 Jul 4 1 , AG 320.2; Unsigned British Rpt 
to Dir of Movements, War Office, 1 8 Aug 4 1 , cited in 



14 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 




Engineer Troops Dumping Fill at Meeks Field, Keflavik 



For storage and quarters the engi- 
neers followed the British example and 
used Nissen huts that could withstand 
the wind. Standard warehouse and bar- 
racks construction could not stand up 
to the elements, and even the huts suf- 
fered when gales ripped the metal sheet- 
ing from the frames. The men banked 
earth and stone against the sides of the 
structures to anchor and insulate them 
and slung sandbags on cables across the 
arched roofs for stability. Any loose 
material outside in open storage had to 
be staked. 15 

Adm 53, IBC Hist; Msg, Chaney to WD, 9 Aug 41, 
AG 320.2; Msg, Whitcomb [Consul in Reykjavik] to 
Scowden, G— 4, WD. The convoy that carried the first 
echelon of Task Force 4 to Iceland deposited 11,000 
tons of stores at Reykjavik, including vehicles, meats, 
vegetables, dairy products, coal, and coke. 

" OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 17, Engineering in Ice- 



During the first weeks after Task 
Force 4 arrived, the engineers rushed 
to complete troop housing and covered 
storage and pushed to extend the docks 
in Reykjavik harbor. Nearly everywhere 
they struggled with a subsoil of soggy 
peat covered with lava rock. As autumn 
drew on, they moved ahead with ex- 
panding airdromes on the island. 

By late 1941 American engineers had 
gradually taken over airfield construc- 
tion from the British. Reykjavik Field 
was under development by a force of 
2,500 British engineers and Icelandic 
workmen when the 21st Engineer Avia- 
tion Regiment arrived with its heavier 
construction equipment. The Ameri- 



land, app. 8, G-4 Rpt, IBC, and app. 10, Unit Hist, 
475th Engr Co. 



THE ENGINEERS CROSS THE ATLANTIC, 1941-1942 



15 



cans took over the western side of the 
field, their first responsibility being a 
foundation for a British prefabricated 
hangar. In November the British pulled 
out of all work, at the site except for 
some road work on their side of the 
airdrome. At the end of the year, the 
21st was in full control of the operation 
and supervised the contracted Icelandic 
labor on the perimeter roads surround- 
ing the base. The departure of the 
Royal Engineers in November and De- 
cember 1941 also brought the 21st to 
the Kaldadharnes site, and survey par- 
ties began laying out what became the 
largest airfield in Iceland at Keflavik. 16 
The last of the Marine contingent left 
Iceland in March, and by mid- 1942 the 
Iceland Base Command numbered 
35,000 Army officers and enlisted men, 
with the requirement for engineer sup- 
port growing steadily. With the 824th 
Engineer Aviation Battalion — an off- 
shoot of the former 21st Engineer Avia- 
tion Regiment — engaged in airfield 
work, the 5th Engineer Combat Regi- 
ment built most of the troop quarters, 
laundries, kitchens, refrigeration and 
ice plants, and hospitals for the garri- 
son until the arrival of the 7th Engi- 
neer Combat Battalion in May 1942. 
Work on roads to connect the outposts 
established by or taken over from the 
British on the northern and eastern 
coasts developed in stride with housing 



16 Rpt, Base Engr, 1BC, to the Engr, GHQ, U.S. 
Army, Oct 41, OCE (12- 3-41), 381 (Indigo) 225/2; 
Rpt, Base Engr, 1BC, to the Engr, GHQ, U.S. Army, 
6 Dec 41, 381 (Indigo) 267/1; Lt Col D. A. Morris, 
Notes on Aviation Engineer Operations in Iceland, 
July 1941 to October 1942, in USAAF pamphlet, 
Excerpts From Overseas Letters and Memoranda, 
1943, pp. 5-9, Ft. Belvoir, Va., Engr Sch Lib; Capt 
Reginald J. B. Page (21st Engrs [Avn]) to CO, HQ, 
IBCAF, Camp Tripoli, Iceland, 314.7 Hist Records, 
1941-43. 



and airdrome construction. (Map 7) 17 
The limited stretches of hard-topped 
roads in the Reykjavik area remained 
serviceable, but the gravel tracks else- 
where took a constant beating from 
heavy Army traffic. The 5th Engineer 
Combat Regiment regraded and metal- 
ized surfaces where necessary and ap- 
plied a top course of red lava rock 
mixed with a finer crushed grade of the 
lava, a composite also used for the 
hardstandings, taxi strips, and service 
access roads around the airfields. 18 

The 824th Engineer Aviation Battal- 
ion still employed hundreds of Iceland- 
ers on the perimeter roads and hangar 
aprons at the Reykjavik Field but grad- 
ually centered its efforts on the huge 
complex at Keflavik. On the wind-swept 
peninsula, two separate fields — Meeks 
Field for bombers and Patterson Field 
for fighter aircraft — took shape, both 
ready for operation in early 1943. Work 
here was carried on by the 824th in 
early 1942 and then taken over by a 
U.S. Navy contractor. Navy Seabees also 
arrived to work under Army engineer 
supervision after the civilian contrac- 
tor returned to the United States. Beset 
by high winds that scoured the feature- 
less landscape, the engineers devised 
expedients in the final phases of run- 
way construction. When the wind 
churned the powdery top surfaces of 
newly graded runway beds into dust 
storms, they laid on liquid asphalt. But 
with September frosts, the asphalt cooled 



17 IBC, ACofS, G-2, Record of Events, 14 Jun 
41-30 Jun 42, pp. 12-19, 314.7 Hist, 1942-43; 
Rpt, Analysis of Engineer Activities in Various The- 
aters of Operations, Based on Troop Basis, 1 Mar 43, 
381 (Gen) 661/1, Doc 77446, Intel files, Ft. Belvoir, 
Va., Engr Sch Lib. 

18 Base Engr, Indigo, to CG, SOS, Monthly Prog- 
ress Rpt for May 42, OCE (7-4-42), 381 (Indigo) 
431. 



16 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 




ICELAND 

1943 



50 Miles 



i i 

25 50 Kilometers 



MAP I 

and coagulated before it could pene- 
trate the lava deeply enough to stabi- 
lize it. Later experiments with a porous- 
mix base produced a runway rugged 
enough to take heavy Navy patrol craft 
and Army bombers on the ferry run to 
England. 

The Iceland Base Command con- 
verted Iceland into a great protective 
bastion for the convoy routes to Europe. 
Engineer-constructed facilities on the 
island housed American defense forces 
that guaranteed one outpost on the way 



l ' ) Keflavik Project Report, vol. 1, Construction, 1943, 
pp. 7-10, 600.1; Rpt, Dir, Atlantic Div, BuY&D, to 
Chf, BuY&D, 18 Jun 45, Naval Facilities in Iceland; 
Morris, Notes on Aviation Engineer Operations in 
Iceland, p. 6; Craven and Cale, Plans and Early Opera- 
tions: January 1939 to August 1942, p. 346. 



to the embattled United Kingdom, which 
became the principal focus of Ameri- 
can interest in the Atlantic area after 
Pearl Harbor. 

Magnet Force 

With the United States an active bel- 
ligerent, on 2 January 1942, the U.S. 
Army replaced SPOBS with U.S. Army 
Forces, British Isles (USAFBI), a more 
formal headquarters that was initially 
only SPOBS in uniform. But creation 
of the headquarters made the Ameri- 
can officers full partners of their oppo- 
sites on the British staff. 

On 5 January 1942, the War Depart- 
ment placed the engineers in charge of 
all overseas construction, but it was Feb- 



THE ENGINEERS CROSS THE ATLANTIC, 1941-1942 



17 



ruary before Colonel Davison, still in 
Washington, got Army approval for a 
USAFBI construction program. Pres- 
sures to bolster home defenses and des- 
perate attempts to stop the Japanese in 
the Pacific were absorbing the energies 
of Washington officials, and still another 
month went by before Colonel Davison 
could obtain facts and figures from the 
Office of the Chief of Engineers (OCE) 
concerning labor, materials, and ship- 
ping requirements. This was hardly 
accomplished before the War Depart- 
ment called upon USAFBI to reduce 
estimated construction to the minimum, 
despite General Chaney's repeated 
warnings that more construction, espe- 
cially housing, would be required than 
had been planned in December. 20 

ABC-1 and RAINBOW— 5 provided 
for sending an American token force 
to England, but America's new belliger- 
ent status and British needs brought 
some changes. New plans called for the 
earliest possible dispatch of 105,000 
men (the MAGNET Force) to Northern 
Ireland. For tactical purposes, the force 
was to be organized as V Corps, made 
up of the 1st Armored and the 32d, 
34th, and 37th Infantry Divisions, with 
supply and service troops as well as air 
units. Of the total, 13,310 were to be 
engineers. Engineer plans for MAGNET 
Force gave detailed instructions on 
landing, administration, depot opera- 
tions, and supply levels, with heavy reli- 
ance on the British for accommodations 
and supplies. From January to June 
1942 engineers in the United Kingdom 



20 WD Ltr, sub: War Department Construction Pol- 
icy (Theaters of Operation), 5 Jan 42, AG 600.12 
(1-3-42) MO-D-M; Cbl, Chaney to TAG, 22 
Jan 42, Northern Ireland Const Prog, OCE ETOUSA 
Hist Records. 



concentrated on installng the MAGNET 
Force in Northern Ireland. 21 

American troops and aircraft went 
to Northern Ireland to defend Ulster 
from air raid or invasion, to lift morale 
in the United States and in the United 
Kingdom, and to release British troops 
for action in the threatened areas of 
the Near East and Africa. 22 But carry- 
ing out deployments to Northern Ire- 
land on the scale envisaged in MAGNET 
Force proved inexpedient because of 
the initial deployments of shipping to 
meet the Japanese onslaught in the 
Pacific. Decisions concerning the size 
and makeup of the final MAGNET Force 
changed from time to time during the 
early part of 1942. On 2 January the 
War Department set the first contin- 
gent at 14,000; a week later the figure 
was increased to 1 7,300, but on 12 Jan- 
uary it was reduced to 4,100 in order 
to speed troop movements to the Pa- 
cific. 23 

This American strategic uncertainty 
after Pearl Harbor led to contradictions 
in events in the British Isles. Though 
the decision to defeat Germany first 
remained unquestioned, the implied 
troop buildup in Britain did not neces- 
sarily flow from that decision. Rather, 
as American leaders attempted to meet 
the demands of a two-front global war, 
engineer work in Northern Ireland was 
determined by the exigencies of the 
moment and not by a comprehensive 



21 Gen Annex 9 (Engr) to Operational Plan, North- 
ern Ireland Theater; Ltr, OCE to Engr, GHQ, 2 Jan 
42, sub: Northern Ireland Base Section Supplies, 1004 
Engr files, NIBS. 

ETO Gen Bd Rpt 128, Logistical Build-up in the 
British Isles, 1946, p. 47. 

23 Cbl 491, Marshall to Milattache, LDN, 7 Feb 42, 
Northern Ireland Const Prog. 



18 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 




General Chaney, Ambassador John G. Winant, and General Hartle 
inspect American installations in Ulster, Northern Ireland, February 1942. 



construction program supporting a stra- 
tegic plan. 24 

MAGNET Force started with little no- 
tice. An advance party under Col. Ed- 
ward H. Heavey left New York secretly 
on 6 January 1942; with it was Lt. Col. 
Donald B. Adams, the V Corps engi- 
neer. The party sailed from Halifax on 
a Norwegian ship and reached Scotland 
on the nineteenth. Colonel Adams and 
the other officers went to London for a 
week of briefing, and the rest of the 
party moved on to Belfast. A brigadier 
of the Royal Engineers guided Adams 
almost from the day he reached North- 
ern Ireland, acquainting him with Brit- 



ish Army methods and with the type of 
work demanded of him in Northern 
Ireland. 25 

On 24 January the U.S. Army North- 
ern Ireland Forces formally came into 
existence. The first troop contingent, 
under Maj. Gen. Russell P. Hartle of 
the 34th Infantry Division, arrived on 
the twenty-sixth. The troop strength 
of 4,100 set for 12 January was not 
reached; a USAFBI report of 15 Febru- 
ary showed 3,904 troops and 12 civil- 
ians in Ulster. By mid-March, after the 
second increment had arrived, U.S. 
Army Northern Ireland Forces totaled 
11,039 officers and enlisted men. This 
force included two engineer combat 



NIBS 



Ltr, Adams to Chaney, 15 May 42, Engr Files, 



Interv with Gen Adams. 



THE ENGINEERS CROSS THE ATLANTIC, 1941-1942 



19 



battalions and three separate compa- 
nies of engineers. 

The third and fourth increments 
arrived on 12 and 18 May respectively. 
The fourth, 10,000 troops aboard the 
Queen Mary, had to go ashore in light- 
ers, for the great vessel was too large 
for Belfast harbor. Meanwhile, the 32d 
and 37th Infantry Divisions had been 
diverted to the Pacific, and at the end 
of May V Corps consisted of the 34th 
Infantry Division, the 1st Armored 
Division, and some corps units. No 
engineer construction units were in the 
theater. The final engineer component 
consisted of a combat regiment, two 
combat battalions, and four service 
companies. During May, MAGNET Force 
reached its peak of 30,000 U.S. Army 
troops in Northern Ireland, some 70,000 
fewer than called for originally. 26 

U.S. Army engineers had to under- 
take relatively little construction, for 
nearly all the American troops brought 
to Northern Ireland moved into camps 
British units had vacated. British engi- 
neer officers made the arrangements 
and furnished moveable equipment 
and supplies such as furniture, light 
bulbs, and coal. Each camp commander 
appointed an American utility officer 
to be responsible for camp maintenance 
and to provide fuel, equipment, and 
waste disposal service. Arrangements 
were made to have American soldiers 
admitted to hospitals serving British 
and Canadian units. 27 

The Americans depended on the 
British for additional construction nec- 



26 Ibid.; ETO Gen Bd Rpt 128, Logistical Build-up 
in the British Isles, p. 43; Ltr, Adams to Chaney, 15 
May 42- 

8 Memo, Bonesteel for G-4, 9 Mar 42, Northern 
Ireland Const Prog. 



essary to house U.S. troops. In fact, the 
British did most of the planning as well 
as the building. The first U.S. Army 
engineer organizations, which settled in 
Walworth Camp in County London- 
derry on Lough Foyle, did not receive 
their organic equipment, including ve- 
hicles, until weeks after the troops ar- 
rived. With the "force mark" system, 
each unit's equipment was coded before 
shipment overseas; men and supplies 
went on different ships, the equipment 
usually on slower moving vessels. This 
system plagued almost all engineer 
units arriving in the United Kingdom 
during 1942. Yet almost as soon as the 
first engineer troops landed, the War 
Department called for a complete con- 
struction program for U.S. Army forces 
scheduled to arrive in Northern Ire- 
land. March was over before Colonel 
Adams could submit a detailed study, 
for he had little more than a skeleton 
engineering staff. 28 

At first, the most essential projects 
were building and enlarging engineer 
depots. The V Corps commanders estab- 
lished a new depot at Desertmartin in 
the southern part of County London- 
derry and decided to enlarge an exist- 
ing depot at Ballyclare in Antrim north 
of Belfast, adapting it to American use. 
Once a site was picked, the engineers 
were to design the depot — type of build- 
ing construction, layout of buildings 
and access roads, railroad service, and 



is Cbl 410, Marshall to USAFBI, 26 Jan 42, North- 
ern Ireland Const Prog; Mtg, British Ministry of Com- 
merce with American Reps, 1942-43, 1009 Sup Cont, 
MofC, Engr files, NIBS; Rpt, Force Engr, NIF, to 
OCE, 9 May 42, sub: USANIF Engr Tech Rpt No. 5, 
Engr files, NIBS; Rpt, Force Engr, NIF, to OCE, 3 
Feb 42, sub: Periodic Engr Rpts as of 1 Feb 42; ETO 
Gen Bd Rpt 128, Logistical Build-up in the British 
Isles, p. 47. 



20 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



concrete hardstandings. They under- 
took little actual construction, however. 29 

Work on enlarging the depot at Bally- 
clare and force headquarters near Wil- 
mont, south of Belfast, began early in 
February. After the Ballyclare construc- 
tion was finished, a company of the 
107th Engineer Battalion (Combat) re- 
mained there to operate the depot, 
aided by work and guard details from 
the 467th Engineer Maintenance Com- 
pany. From 1 March to 3 1 August the 
112th Engineers (originally a combat 
battalion and in June enlarged and re- 
designated a combat regiment) worked 
at Desertmartin except for three weeks 
in late March and early April when it 
furnished troops to make repairs at 
force headquarters. Such units as the 
112th Engineer Combat Regiment, 
Company A of the 109th Engineer 
Combat Battalion, the 467th Engineer 
Shop Company, the 427th Engineer 
Dump Truck Company, and the 397th 
Engineer Depot Company chiefly en- 
larged existing facilities to meet Ameri- 
can standards and needs. 30 

By May the supply situation, except 
for organizational equipment, was com- 
paratively satisfactory. As early as 20 
February, engineer items were sixth on 
the shipping priority list (below post 
exchange supplies) and using units, 
upon their arrival from America, re- 
quisitioned engineer supplies almost 
immediately. Day-by-day requirements 
determined the use of supplies, for the 



20 Ltrs, Hartle to COC, BFNI, 29 Jan and 3 Feb 42, 
1001 Engr Depot E-510, Engr Files, NIBS; Interv 
with Gen Adams. 

311 Rpt, Force Engr, NIF, to OCE, 17 Feb 42, sub: 
Interim Report, O&T Br files, OCE; Ibid., 3 Feb 42, 
sub: Periodic Engr Rpts as of 1 Feb 42; Ltr, Adams to 
Chaney, 15 May 42; Engr Tech Rpt 9, NIBS to OCE, 
SOS, 7 Sep 42, Incl 3; Rpt, Engr, NIBS, 26 Nov 42, 
Engr files, NIBS. 



engineers had no experience and no 
directives to guide them. Yet by May, 
Colonel Adams could report that engi- 
neer supplies were generally adequate. 
Originally, a system was established to 
maintain a sixty- to ninety-day level of 
supplies, taking into account not only 
those troops already in Northern 
Ireland, but also those due to arrive 
within the next sixty days. Some of 
these supplies came from the United 
States without requisition, others by 
specific requisition, still others by requi- 
sition of British military supplies, and a 
certain amount by local purchase. In- 
coming supplies went to the engineer 
depots at Desertmartin and Ballyclare, 
and some equipment went to Money- 
more General Depot, a British deposi- 
tory taken over for U.S. Army use in 
County Londonderry west of Lough 
Neagh. 31 

Shortages of organizational equip- 
ment persisted, in part because of the 
delays caused by the force mark system; 
at the end of March organizations in 
the theater had only 25 percent of their 
equipment. Five months later, 85 per- 
cent was on hand, but by this time 
Northern Ireland had declined in sig- 
nificance. Some of the equipment was 
entirely too light for the construction 
demands made on it. 32 

On the whole, the engineers sent to 
Northern Ireland had had scanty train- 
ing in the United States except in basic 
military subjects, and overseas they had 
little chance to learn their jobs. The 



" Rpt, Force Engr, NIF, to OCE, 9 May 42, sub: 
USANIF Engr Tech Rpt No. 5; Interv with Gen 
Adams; Cbl, Marshall to SPOBS, 20 Feb 42, 3.00 
USAFBI Planning, OCE ETOUSA Hist Records; Rpt, 
Engr, NIBS, 26 Nov 42. 

® Rpt, Force Engr, NIBS, to G-4, NIF, 3 Apr 42, 
sub: Monthly Rpt on Engr Equipment and Supplies, 
1004 Sup Misc, 1942, Engr files, NIBS. 



THE ENGINEERS CROSS THE ATLANTIC, 1941-1942 



21 



112th Engineers, a combat battalion 
redesignated a regiment in August 1942, 
was constantly engaged in construction 
and was able to give only 10 percent of 
its time to training outside of that re- 
ceived on the job. Though valuable, 
such work did not train the unit for the 
many other missions of a combat regi- 
ment in which it had had no real instruc- 
tion since September 1941. Thirty per- 
cent of the men in one battalion had 
recently transferred from the infantry, 
and many of the enlisted men in the 
unit had never learned any engineer 
specialties. 33 The men of the 107th 
Engineer Battalion (Combat) at Bally- 
clare were supposed to be undergoing 
training, but they were called on so often 
to enlarge force headquarters and reha- 
bilitate the Quartermaster Depot at 
Antrim that little time remained. 34 

Even when time was available, the 
lack of space hindered training. Agri- 
cultural land could not easily be with- 
drawn from production to provide room 
for military training. Engineer organi- 
zations were unfamiliar with British 
Army procedures even though after 
February 1942 Royal Engineer schools 
were open to American troops. The 
first attempt to teach British ways was 
limited, but eventually such instruction 
became an essential part of U.S. Army 
engineer training. 35 



The 1 12th Engineers was formed in August 1942 
on a nucleus of one battalion from the 112th Engi- 
neers, 37th Division, Ohio National Guard, and an- 
other from the 107th Engineers, 32d Division, Wis- 
consin National Guard. The two battalions had had 
little or no training for the type of construction 
required in Northern Ireland. 

U Ltr, Adams to Chaney, 15 May 42; ETO Gen Bd 
Rpt 128, Logistical Build-up in the British Isles, p. 47. 

15 Hist 397th Engr Depot Co; Rpt, Force Engr, NIF, 
to OCE, 17 Feb 42, sub: Interim Report; Interv with 
Col Anson D. Marslon. 



On 1 June 1942, the Northern Ire- 
land Base Command (Provisional) was 
formed to relieve V Corps of supply 
and administrative problems so that it 
could, as the highest ground force com- 
mand in the United Kingdom, devote 
its full time to tactical preparations. The 
arrangement was short-lived; the com- 
mand soon became part of a Services 
of Supply in the newly formed Euro- 
pean Theater of Operations under the 
more normal designation of a base 
section. The decisions that led to the 
formation of the theater presaged the 
decline in importance of Northern Ire- 
land as a base. By the summer of 1942 
the main combat forces in the MAGNET 
Force (the 1st Armored and 34th Infan- 
try Divisions) had been earmarked for 
an invasion of North Africa, and U.S. 
construction in Ulster ceased com- 
pletely. 36 

Limited though they were in scope, 
the engineering tasks in Northern Ire- 
land were often difficult to accomplish. 
The damp, cold weather depressed 
troops fresh from camps in the south- 
ern states, and the men complained 
about British food. Equally telling were 
the insufficient, inadequate, and fre- 
quently unfamiliar tools. The early 
period in Northern Ireland was, for the 
engineers, a time of stumbling forward. 
Yet worthwhile lessons were learned, 
especially in planning construction and 
in establishing a supply system. As valu- 



:lli On 21 October 1942 there were only 292 U.S. 
Army engineer personnel left in Northern Ireland. 
SOS ETOUSA Statistical Summaries XIV, 26 Oct 42, 
3 19.25; Rpt, Engr, NIBS, to OCE, 9 Jul 42, sub: Engr 
Tech Rpt No. 1, ETOUSA, 600 NI Gen, Engr Files, 
NIBS; ETOUSA GO 17, 17 Jul 42; SOS ETOUSA 
GO 79, 9 Dec 42; Thore Bengston, Historical Resume 
of Engineer Activities in the British Isles. 



22 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



able as anything was the day-by-day 
cooperation with the British. 3 

The Bolero Plan 

Outside of Northern Ireland, the 
entire engineer force in the British Isles 
on 1 April 1942 consisted of Maj. Char- 
les H. Bonesteel III, the officer in 
charge; a lieutenant detailed from the 
British Army; and two enlisted men on 
loan from the American embassy. Colo- 
nel Davison was still in the United 
States. A larger engineer buildup a- 
waited fundamental decisions on strat- 
egy that would determine troop and 
support requirements. In April these 
decisions came, though they were to be 
changed again in August. 

In mid-April 1942, General George 
C. Marshall, U.S. Army Chief of Staff , 
and Harry Hopkins, President Roose- 
velt's personal representative, on a spe- 
cial mission in London won British 
approval of an American plan for a 
cross-Channel invasion in 1943. Under 
the original code name BOLERO, the 
operation was to have three phases — a 
preparatory buildup in the British Isles, 
a cross-Channel movement and seizure 
of beachheads, and finally a general 
advance into German-occupied Europe. 
The plan also provided for an emer- 
gency invasion of Europe in 1942 if the 
Germans were critically weakened or if 
a Soviet collapse seemed imminent. By 
early July the code name BOLERO had 
come to designate only the buildup 
or preparatory phase; the emergency 
operation in 1942 was designated 
Sledgehammer, and the full-scale 1943 
invasion was designated ROUNDUP. 



37 ETO Gen Bd Rpt 128, Logistical Build-up in the 
British Isles, pp. 11-12. 



BOLERO envisaged the development 
of the United Kingdom as a massive 
American base for a future invasion 
and for an immediate air offensive. It 
changed the dimensions of the Ameri- 
can task in the British Isles and shifted 
emphasis from Northern Ireland to 
England. Between April and August 
1942 it gave the American buildup pur- 
pose and direction, but the original 
BOLERO concept did not last long 
enough to permit buildup plans to take 
final form. In the end neither ROUND- 
UP nor SLEDGEHAMMER proved fea- 
sible. In late July a new strategic deci- 
sion for an invasion of North Africa 
(TORCH) made any cross-Channel inva- 
sion in 1942 or 1943 all but impossible 
and placed the BOLERO buildup in 
limbo. The engineer story in England 
during spring and summer of 1942 is 
inextricably tied to the changes in direc- 
tion that resulted from these strategic 
decisions. 38 

At the very least, the BOLERO plan 
gave impetus to the development of an 
American planning and support orga- 
nization in the British Isles and laid the 
groundwork for the massive buildup 
for an invasion in 1943—44. As a first 
step, combined BOLERO committees 
were established in Washington and 
London, the task of the London com- 
mittee being to "prepare plans and 
make administrative preparations for 
the reception, accommodation and 
maintenance of United States forces in 
the United Kingdom and for the devel- 



38 For background on Roundup planning, see Gor- 
don A. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, United States 
Army in World War II (Washington, 1951), pp. 1-45. 
A detailed study of strategic plans is in Maurice Madoff 
and Edwin M. Snell, Strategic Planning for Coalition 
Warfare, 1941-1942, United States Army in World 
War II (Washington, 1953), pp. 32-62. 



THE ENGINEERS CROSS THE ATLANTIC, 1941-1942 



23 



opment of the United Kingdom in ac- 
cordance with the requirements of the 
'ROUNDUP' plan." During 1942 the 
committee produced three separate 
BOLERO troop basest — referred to as key 
plans — which provided general guides 
for the buildup, including U.S. Army 
engineers. The first BOLERO Key Plan 
appeared on 31 May 1942; a compre- 
hensive revision based on much more 
detailed studies followed on 25 July; 
and a third plan was published in late 
November reflecting the adjustments 
required by the TORCH decision. 39 

Each of the plans was based on fore- 
casts of American troops to be sent to 
the United Kingdom and included esti- 
mates of personnel and hospital accom- 
modations, depot storage, and special 
structures they would require, together 
with British advice on where the facili- 
ties would be found or built. All these 
plans suffered from the lack of a firm 
invasion troop basis, a target date, or a 
specific landing zone, but they did rep- 
resent tentative bases on which buildup 
operations could proceed. The origi- 
nal plan brought to London by Gen- 
eral Marshall called for thirty U.S. divi- 
sions included within a total of about 
one million men, all to be in the United 
Kingdom in time for the spring 1943 
invasion. The BOLERO Key Plan of 3 1 
May called for 1,049,000 U.S. troops in 
Britain, but for not nearly so many divi- 
sions on account of the need for air 
and service troops. The second BOLERO 
Plan of July provided a troop basis of 
1,147,000. The third plan in Novem- 
ber, reflecting the abandonment of 
hope for a 1943 invasion, set the short- 



3,1 DQMG(L) Paper 1, Administrative Planning, etc., 
for Bolero and Roundup, 1943, ETO Adm Files, 
Bolero Misc. 



term goal for April 1943 at 427,000 
men, although it optimistically retained 
the long-term goal of the first plan — 
1,049,000. As 1942 ended, however, in 
the face of a continuing drain for the 
operation in North Africa and an acute 
shipping shortage, neither the long- nor 
the short-term goal seemed attainable. 
BOLERO thus proceeded with uncer- 
tainty in 1942 and was subject to con- 
stant changes. 40 

As the central planning agency in the 
United Kingdom, the BOLERO Com- 
bined Committee in London was con- 
cerned with high-level policy only. Sub- 
committees took care of intergovern- 
mental planning for specific tasks such 
as troop housing, hospitals, and depots. 
Various permanent British and Ameri- 
can agencies in direct cooperation un- 
dertook the day-to-day work, and these 
agencies set up special machinery that 
dealt with specific problems. To the 
U.S. Army engineers, the most impor- 
tant British official at this stage of the 
war was Maj. Gen. Richard M. Woo- 
ten, Deputy Quartermaster General 
(Liaison) of the War Office. Under his 
command were two sections: a planning 
group concerned with receiving and 
housing troops and another dealing 
with entertainment and morale. 41 

Most American ground troops were 
to be stationed in southern England and 



40 Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies, Vol- 
ume I, pp. 66, 106; Bolero Key Plans, Bolero Publi- 
cations, ETO Hist Sect, Adm file 50, Bolero; 
DQMG(L) Paper 8, 2d ed., Key Plan, 5 Jun 42, BOLERO 
Publications, OCE ETOUSA Hist Records. 

11 Maj. Gen. C. R. Moore, Final Report of Chief Engi- 
neer European Theater of Operations 1942- 1945, p. 231 
(cited hereafter as Moore, Final Report); Mtgs, British 
War Cabinet, Bolero Combined Committee (Lon- 
don), OCE ETOUSA Hist Records; F. M. Albrecht, 
"Engineer Aspects of Operation Bolero," The Mili- 
tary Engineer, XL1I, no. 286 (March-April 1950), 1 16. 



24 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



were assigned positions in that area (the 
British Southern Command) west of the 
principal British forces, for the Conti- 
nental invasion plan provided that the 
Americans were to be on the right, the 
British on the left, when they went 
ashore in France. This meant that thou- 
sands of British troops already on the 
right would have to move east to new 
areas. Immediately after publication of 
the first BOLERO Plan, representatives 
of the two armies met to plan the neces- 
sary transfers. 42 

But other problems were not so eas- 
ily settled. Housing standards included 
such matters as the size, shape, and 
equipment of structures, materials to 
be used, and sewage facilities. These 
difficulties were the product of two dif- 
ferent standards of living; Americans 
were reluctant to accept many stan- 
dards that seemed to the British entirely 
adequate. Another problem concerned 
airfield specifications and materials. 
These differences surfaced when the 
British turned over their own accom- 
modations to American forces and drew 
up plans for new structures. The Brit- 
ish view was understandable, for one 
of BOLERO'S chief aims was to limit new 
construction and expansion to the bar- 
est minimum. Moreover, all the BOLERO 
installations were to be returned to the 
British after they had served their pur- 
pose for the Americans. 

Creation of the Services of Supply 
BOLERO required a large American 

42 Memo, HQ, USAFBI, for CofS, USAFBI, 1 1 Jun 
42, sub: Conf with HQ, Southern Command, 10 Jun 
42. Other meetings of DQMG(L) and U.S. Army rep- 
resentatives took place on 2, 4, and 24 July 1942. See 
Ltr, HQ, Southern Command, sub: Operational Con- 
trol of U.S. Forces, Adm file 50, BOLERO, ETOUSA 
Hist Sect. 



military organization to handle the pro- 
posed massive buildup in the United 
Kingdom. On 2 May General Chaney 
cabled the War Department outlining 
his own ideas on a Services of Supply 
(SOS) to be organized for this purpose 
and requested personnel to man it. He 
indicated that General Davison was his 
choice as SOS commander. To head a 
construction division under Davison, he 
suggested Col. Thomas B. Larkin or 
Col. Stanley L. Scott, and his choice for 
Davison's successor as chief engineer 
was Col. William F. Tompkins. But 
the War Department had its own ideas. 
General Marshall had already chosen 
another engineer officer, Maj. Gen. 
John C. H. Lee, to head the theater 
SOS, and by 5 May Lee was busily 
engaged in recruiting an SOS staff in 
Washington. On 14 May Marshall sent 
a directive to Chaney stipulating that 
the organization of the theater SOS was 
to parallel that of the SOS recently 
formed under Lt. Gen. Brehon B. 
Somervell in the United States and was 
to be given far broader powers than 
Chaney proposed. The theater head- 
quarters was to retain "a minimum of 
supply and administrative services" 
under the SOS. 43 

General Lee, a strong-minded, even 
controversial man, entered the theater 
on 24 May like a whirlwind, determined 
to carry out the Marshall directive. His 
approach provoked spirited resistance 
among General Chaney's staff, most of 
whom believed that the theater chiefs 
of technical services could function 
properly only if they were directly un- 
der the theater commander. Chaney 
had already established an SOS cotn- 



43 Ltr, Marshall to CG, USAFBI, 14 May 42, OCE 
ETOUSA Hist Records. 



THE ENGINEERS CROSS THE ATLANTIC, 1941-1942 



25 



General Lee 



mand in anticipation of General Lee's 
arrival. The two officers appeared to 
have reached agreement on the com- 
mand during transatlantic telephone 
conversations in which General Davison 
took part as well. But after Lee began 
operations in London on 24 May, it 
developed that his conception of the 
scope of his command far exceeded 
what General Chaney had vaguely 
staked out for him. As dynamic an orga- 
nizer as he was a forceful personality, 
General Lee eventually acquired a spe- 
cial train, which he called "Alive," to 
enable him to make quick trips to solve 
knotty problems and to hold command- 
level conferences in complete privacy. 44 



44 USAFBI GO 17, 24 May 42; ETO Adm File 16, 
Alive-Special Train. 



For all his determination and dyna- 
mism, General Lee was not to have his 
way entirely. On 8 June 1942, the War 
Department formally established the 
European Theater of Operations, U.S. 
Army (ETOUSA), to succeed the USA- 
FBI command. General Chaney retained 
command temporarily but on 24 June 
was succeeded by Maj. Gen. Dwight D. 
Eisenhower, also General Marshall's 
personal choice. Before Eisenhower's 
arrival Chaney had already tried to 
resolve the jurisdiction of the SOS by a 
compromise arrangement reflected in 
ETOUSA Circular 2 of 13 June 1942. 
Eleven of eighteen theater special staff 
sections, including all the technical 
services, were placed under the SOS 
commander, but he was to carry out 
his functions "under directives issued 



26 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



by the theater commander," and there 
were other clauses to assure that the 
theater command retained control of 
theater-wide functions. The theater 
staff sections under the SOS were to 
maintain liaison offices at theater head- 
quarters. The broad grant of authority 
to General Lee was thus diluted by the 
dual nature of the relationship of his 
technical service chiefs to the SOS and 
to the theater command. The result was 
a division of supply and administrative 
functions between the SOS and Head- 
quarters, ETOT ISA. 

On assuming command, General 
Eisenhower made only small changes 
in the arrangement. ETOUSA General 
Order 19 of 20 July 1942 actually re- 
duced the number of staff sections 
directly under SOS control, probably 
the result of the removal of SOS head- 
quarters from London to Cheltenham, 
physically separating it from ETOUSA 
headquarters. The engineers, as well 
as the other technical services, remained 
under the SOS with their headquarters, 
in effect, divided between London and 
Cheltenham. It was, in the words of 
the theater's logistical historian, "a 
compromise solution which . . . resulted 
in the creation of overlapping agencies 
and much duplication of effort." If 
Eisenhower had an impulse to change 
the arrangement, he was soon ab- 
sorbed in planning for TORCH, an op- 
eration of which he was to be Allied 
commander, and General Order 19 
was to govern SOS-ETOUSA relation- 
ships for another year. 45 



The Engineer Pyramid 

Within this framework, the Engineer 
Service in the ETOUSA Finally took 
shape. When General Lee first began 
assembling his SOS staff in the United 
States, he asked General Davison to be 
his chief engineer. The office Davison 
was to head really had had its start 
earlier. In March 1942, while Davison 
was still in the United States, eight engi- 
neer officers and twenty-one enlisted 
men sailed for Britain to add some flesh 
to the skeleton force then under Major 
Bonesteel. Additional personnel came 
with General Davison when he returned 
to England in April, and others soon 
followed. In early June their distribu- 
tion was uncertain; no one knew how 
many engineers were to make up the 
total force in the chiefs office, nor, 
indeed, whether there was to be one 
chief engineer. 46 

Officially, the Engineer Service, SOS, 
ETOUSA, came into existence on I July 
1942. The various divisions were set up 
the next day: Supply, Administration 
and Personnel, Construction, Quar- 
tering, Intelli gence, an d Operations 
and Training. (Chart 7)] General Dav- 
ison's tenure as head of the service 
ended late in July when General Lee, 
carrying out a plan to decentralize his 
command, organized base sections in 
the United Kingdom and made Davison 
commanding officer of Western Base 
Section. Brig. Gen. Thomas B. Larkin 
(promoted 23 May 1942) then became 
chief engineer, but was called away in 
September to plan for TORCH and then 
to command the SOS to be established 
in North Africa. Larkin was titular chief 



45 Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies, Vol- 
ume 1, p. 44. The account of the evolution of the 
ETOUSA command structure is drawn from pp. 
32-44. 



4fi Bengsten, Hist Resume; Lee Diary, entries 7 and 
8 May 42, Adm files 102, ETOUSA Hist Sect. 




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28 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



engineer until 2 November, but, in fact, 
he was replaced on 15 September by Col. 
(later Maj. Gen.) Cecil R. Moore as 
acting chief engineer, ETOUSA. With 
the landings in North Africa, Moore 
became chief engineer, ETOUSA, on 
9 November, and was named to the 
same job for SOS on 23 November 
1942.^ 

Colonel Moore, widely known as 
"Dinty," served as chief engineer until 
the end of the war in Europe. Born 3 
July 1894, Moore entered the Army 
from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 
1917 and served overseas in World War 
I. The period between the two wars 
found him active on various dam pro- 
jects, primarily in the Pacific Northwest 
where, for a time, he served as the Port- 
land district engineer under General 
Lee, then chief of the North Pacific 
Engineer Division. In 1940 he was in 
charge of the building of camps, depots, 
and hospitals in the Pacific Northwest, 
and he left this task to go to the Euro- 
pean theater. Arriving in the United 
Kingdom in July 1942, for some time 
he did double duty in OCE and as com- 
mander of Eastern Base Section. 48 

During its hectic first months, the 
Engineer Service, SOS, ETOUSA, was 
plagued by these rapid changes in lead- 
ership, uncertainties about its functions, 
division of its staff between London and 
Cheltenham, and continuous person- 
nel shortages. When General Davison 
took over, he found that an SOS direc- 
tive placed the engineers, along with 
the other technical services, under the 



47 ETOUSA GO 19, 20 Jut 42; SOS ETOUSA GO 
I, 20 Jul 42; SOS ETOUSA Cirs, 1, 1 Jul 42; 2, 2Jul 
42; and 3, 20 Jul 42; OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 1, 
Organization, Administration, and Personnel (United 
Kingdom), 1946, p. 6, Liaison Sect, Intel Div, ETOUSA 
Adm file 547. 

48 Moore, Final Report, p. 13. 



supervision of G— 4, SOS, and that the 
Requirements Branch of G— 4 had re- 
sponsibility to "prepare policies, plans 
and directives for the formulation and 
execution of supply and construction 
projects in terms of type, quantities, and 
time schedules." This function, as far 
as construction was concerned, seemed 
to belong rightfully to the chief engi- 
neer; but only in December was it offi- 
cially transferred, although the engi- 
neers had long before assumed it in 

40 

practice. 

The move of SOS to Cheltenham, a 
famous watering spot in the Gloucester- 
shire countryside some ninety miles 
west of London, accentuated the diffi- 
culties of coordination between theater 
and SOS engineer sections. The chief 
engineer and his division chiefs were 
perforce commuters between Chelten- 
ham and London in their efforts to 
coordinate work between the two com- 
plementary but often overlapping engi- 
neer sections. Maintaining two staffs 
worsened the manpower shortages of 
the engineer force in the United King- 
dom, a force that did not have all its 
authorized officers until 15 May 1943 
and enlisted men until mid-September. 50 

The shortages affected the progress 
of all the engineer command's work. 
Besides construction, for which Ameri- 
can engineers relied so heavily upon 
the British, the SOS command as of 13 
June 1942 was responsible for railroad 
operations, quartering and utilities, and 



4 * } SOS, Initial Directive for the Organization of the 
SOS, ETO, 23 Jun 42, and SOS Cir 63, 14 Dec 42; 
both in Compilation of Directives Relating to Engi- 
neer Services, OCE ETOUSA Hist Records. Com- 
ments by Brig Gen F. M. Albrecht. 

"'" OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 1 , Organization, Admin- 
istration, and Personnel, p. 23. For more details, see 
|ch. 



THE ENGINEERS CROSS THE ATLANTIC, 1941-1942 



29 



for all the boats and landing craft sched- 
uled to arrive with incoming amphib- 
ian engineer units. In August the new 
Transportation Corps (TC) took over 
the railroads, but the engineers still had 
too few men to procure fire-fighting 
equipment for the transportation ser- 
vice, acquire cranes, lumber, and real 
estate, and build fuel pumping instal- 
lations. Col. Arthur W. Pence, who had 
arrived with General Lee to be the dep- 
uty chief engineer of SOS ETOUSA 
found the personnel situation highly 
confused. He could only commiserate 
for the moment with General Davison 
that the twenty officers available for the 
Office of the Chief Engineer in the Ser- 
vices of Supply command were not 
enough to do the job. 51 

Despite personnel and organizational 
problems during 1942 the engineer 
parts were gradually building into a 
working machine, as the development 
of the "static force," or regional orga- 
nization, demonstrated. The need for 
district organization such as existed in 
the United States was appreciated by 
engineer officers — Colonel Pence, for 
example — even before General Lee had 
decided to set up such a system. On 9 
June General Lee asked the War De- 
partment for personnel to make up 
twelve engineer district offices, and the 
engineers began to establish such an 
organization on 3 July. This engineer 
machinery was absorbed on 20 July by 



s ' ETOUSA Cir 2, 13 Jun 42; SOS ETOUSA Initial 
Directive for the Organization of SOS, ETO; OCE 
ETOUSA Cir 1, 1 Jul 42, sub: Responsibility of the 
Construction and Real Estate Activities; SOS ETOUSA 
Procurement Directive 5, I7jul42;8, 19 Aug 42; II, 
18 Sep 42; and 14, 2 Nov 42; OCE ETOUSA Cir 22 
(O&T), 16 Sep 42; SOS ETOUSA Cir 13, 19 Aug 42; 
Ltr, Pence to Col J. S. Gorlinski, OCE, Wash D.C., 4 
Jun 42; all in OCE ETOUSA Hist Records. 




General Larkin 



General Lee's reorganization of the 
entire SOS. He established four base 
sections, roughly paralleling a British 
milit ary divisi on of the United King- 
dom. RMa/T2j| These jurisdictions — the 
Northern Ireland , Eastern, Western, 
and Southern Base Sections — were di- 
vided into districts which, in turn, were 
divided into areas. Each organization, 
from the base section down, had its own 
engineer. 52 

General Lee's aim was to employ the 
base sections and their subdivisions as 
instruments of the parent SOS to secure 
centralized control and decentralized 
operation of the whole field organiza- 
tion. The base sections became the 



52 ETOUSA GO 19, 20 Jul 42; SOS ETOUSA Cirs 
1, 1 Jul 42; 2, 2 Jul 42; and 3, 20 Jul 42; SOS GO 10, 
20 Jul 42; Ltr, Pence to Gorlinski, 4 Jun 42; OCE 
ETOUSA Hist Rpt 1, Organization, Administration, 
and Personnel, p. 4. 



ATLANTIC OCEAN 




MAP 2 



THE ENGINEERS CROSS THE ATLANTIC, 1941-1942 



31 



offices of record, while the districts 
were primarily offices of supervision. 
The base section, district, and area 
staffs were known as the static force, 
and each worked in close liaison with 
its local counterpart in the British Ar- 
my. Two of the four base section com- 
manders first appointed by General 
Lee— General Davison and Colonel 
Moore — were engineers. 53 

The base section engineer was not 
only a member of the base section com- 
mander's special staff but was also the 
representative with the base section of 
the chief engineer, SOS. This created a 
difficult problem: the division of author- 
ity between the chief engineer and the 
base section commander. When the 
field system came into being, "technical 
control" was reserved to the chief of 
each service, but the concept was so 
vague that it satisfied no one. For 
months, the matter troubled the entire 
SOS organization, and it was never 
completely settled. In August Head- 
quarters, SOS, attempted to clarify the 
situation for the engineers. New con- 
struction and base repair shops were 
removed from the base section com- 
manders' jurisdiction, and Colonel 
Moore, chief engineer, obtained author- 
ity to deal directly with his representa- 
tives in the base sections on these mat- 
ters. Nevertheless, the engineers were 
told to keep the base section command- 
ers informed concerning progress. Al- 
though on paper Colonel Moore had 
direct authority over new construction, 
in practice both he and the base section 
commanders expected the base section 
engineers to assume responsibility; leav- 



53 Memo, Harwood for Moore, 30 Jul 42, Min of 
Mtgs 1942, USFET, Engr Sect; SOS ETOUSA Cir 3, 
20 Jul 42. 



ing a large measure of authority to 
these subordinate officers made it pos- 
sible to avoid controversy. 54 

Roundup Planning 

In addition to organizing a base in 
the United Kingdom for an Allied inva- 
sion of the Continent, it was necessary 
to plan for the operation itself. A 
ROUNDUP Administrative Planning 
Staff was set up for joint planning, 
holding its first meeting on 29 May 
1942. Of the forty original sections, sev- 
eral were of special concern to the 
engineers: port salvage and repair, 
development of communication lines, 
shops and utilities, water supply, bridg- 
ing, and construction and maintenance 
of airfields. A U.S. Joint Staff Planners 
decision on the jurisdiction over land- 
ing craft also made the engineers in 
the theater responsible for training boat 
crews for amphibious operations in 
Europe. 55 

As deputy chief engineer at Head- 
quarters, ETOUSA, Col. Elmer E. 
Barnes headed the engineer planners 
for Roundup; it was July before he 
obtained even a limited number of offi- 
cers for his staff. While chiefly con- 
cerned with Roundup planning, 
Barnes' organization also maintained 
contact with the British on all engineer 
matters, prepared studies on construc- 
tion requirements for the Construction 
Division of OCE, SOS, and maintained 



51 Comments by Gen Moore on MS, Engineer Opera- 
tions in Europe and Africa; SOS GO 10, 20 Jul 42; 
SOS ETOUSA Cirs 3, 20 Jul 42, and 12, 17 Aug 42. 

53 Incl, Appreciation of Rounduj", Adm Ping Situa- 
tion, 4 May 43, w/ Memo, OCE for Port, Gen Const, 
Communications, Utilities & POL Sections of the Ping 
Br, Const and Quartering Div, 20 May 43, OCE 
ETOUSA Hist Records; Mins, U.S. Joint Staff Plan- 
ners, 20 Apr 42, ABC 334, JSP Min, sec. 1 (2-13-42). 



32 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



liaison with the Operations and Train- 
ing and Supply Divisions of OCE, SOS. 
Finally, Barnes' office coordinated engi- 
neer activities with other arms and ser- 
vices represented at ETOUSA head- 
quarters in London. 56 

Colonel Barnes and his subordinates 
faced a chronic shortage of officers and 
the lack of a basic operational plan for 
ROUNDUP in 1942. The engineer sec- 
tion at Headquarters, ETOUSA, una- 
voidably lost time and wasted effort 
because everything had to be referred 
for approval to OCE, SOS, at Chelten- 
ham. For example, the officer dealing 
with expected construction require- 
ments on the Continent after the inva- 
sion would have to send his plan and 
estimates to Cheltenham for approval 
and suggestions, wait for the revision, 
and then return his second draft for 
final approval. 57 

When TORCH preparations went into 
full swing, ROUNDUP planning was vir- 
tually shelved, to be taken up again as 
circumstances permitted. Key person- 
nel were assigned to the North African 
invasion, and a Pentagon directive of 
18 November that prohibited stockpil- 
ing of supplies and equipment for 
ROUNDUP beyond that required for the 
427,000-man force further handi- 
capped Barnes. The British, who in- 
sisted on going on with their ROUNDUP 



56 History of the Engineer Service, p. 6, ETO Adm 
file 547, Engrs; Chron. of Events (OCE ETOUSA); 
Memo, Barnes for Moore, 10 Jul 42, Orgn for ETO 
Engr Sect, OCE ETOUSA Hist Records; Rpt, OCE 
ETOUSA CG to ETOUSA, 8 Aug 42, 319.1 OCE 
Rpts to CG, EUCOM Engr files; OCE ETOUSA Hist 
Rpt 1, Organization, Administration, and Personnel, 
app. 25; Memo, Harwood for Barnes, 15 Sep 42, 316 
Office Methods, EUCOM Engr files. 

57 Memo, Barnes for Moore, lOJul 42; Incl, Appre- 
ciation of Roundup w/Memo; Memo, Lord for Moore, 
2 Nov 42, SOS and OCE Organization, OCE ETOUSA 
Hist Records. 



planning, wanted to continue stockpil- 
ing standardized supplies to be used by 
British and American forces. In one 
case they tried to obtain a particular 
item of petroleum, oil, and lubricants 
(POL) equipment from the United 
States, but because of the new Ameri- 
can policy they had to continue manu- 
facturing and using their own prod- 
uct. 58 

G— 4, ETOUSA, continued a sem- 
blance of planning by requiring from 
each of the services a maintenance pro- 
gram for a theoretical Continental op- 
eration. The engineers also prepared 
their part of an invasion plan, an exer- 
cise that eventually proved its value in 
helping to determine the necessary 
engineer nonstandard heavy construc- 
tion — Class IV — supplies and the ade- 
quacy of the engineer troop basis. 59 

As important as any aspect of this 
work was the experience gained in 
working with the British. Estimating 
requirements, for example, led to the 
establishment of a joint stockpile which 
cut down duplication and made supply 
facilities more flexible. The tremendous 
tonnages involved and the long peri- 
ods required for production made the 
importance of the joint stockpile ap- 
parent. Close liaison also promoted stan- 
dardization of equipment. For example, 
the U.S. Army in December 1942 req- 
uisitioned from the British ROUNDUP 
stocks 20,000 standard 16-foot-wide 



5M Ltr, Lee to Somervell, 17 Nov 42, ETO 381 
Roundup, Jul- Nov 42; Weekly Rpt, London Repr, 
OCE, 12 Oct and 7 Dec 42, 319.1 Engr Sect, ETO 
London Repr Rpts, OCE ETOUSA Hist Records. 

59 Ltr, 18 Dec 42, sub: Engr Operational Plans in 
Connection with G-4 Directing for Roundup Plan- 
ning, Engr Sect, ETOUSA; Incl, Appreciation of 
Roundup w/Memo; Rpt, A Total Tonnage Schedule 
for the Nov 42 G— 4 Problem, etc., Amphibious Sect, 
Engr Sect, ETO, Roundup, OCE ETOUSA. 



THE ENGINEERS CROSS THE ATLANTIC, 1941-1942 



33 



Nissen huts, 6 million square feet of 
24-foot-wide Nissen hutting, 2,000 Bai- 
ley bridges, 25 million sandbags, large 
quantities of barbed wire, and other 
supplies. These requisitions were "on 
paper" for future delivery and repre- 
sented a part of planning for the actual 
invasion. In road and general construc- 
tion, where the problems were more or 
less peculiar to each force, joint action 
extended only to the standardization 
of materials. In addition to its other 
benefits, standardization in any form 
tends to reduce costs. The good rela- 
tions established at planning meetings 
were of incalculable importance for the 
future. 60 

In connection with POL distribution, 
port reconstruction, and beach and port 
operations, the engineers in the vari- 
ous ROUNDUP administrative planning 
sections in 1942 accomplished worth- 
while planning. Less was achieved in 
regard to water supply and amphibi- 
ous operations, little on bridging prob- 
lems, and almost nothing on airfield 
construction and maintenance. 61 

When OCE, ETOUSA, conducted a 
drastic self-examination in the fall and 
winter of 1942, it discovered that SOS 
personnel concerned themselves too 
much with matters in which they should 
not have been involved beyond coordi- 
nating details after receiving broad 
operational plans from London. The 
ETOUSA section was further embar- 
rassed by difficulty in securing well- 



*" Mtgs, Bolero Combined Committee (London); 
Moore, Final Report, p. 38; Daily Jnl, entry 12 Dec 42, 
Supply Div, OCE ETOUSA, EUCOM Engr files. 

Rpt, Engr Sect, ETOUSA, 22 Nov 42, sub: Sum- 
mary of POL Activities ( 1 Jul- 1 5 Nov 42), and Folder, 
Total Tonnage Schedule for Nov 42 Problem Round- 
up, both in OCE ETOUSA Hist Records, Apprecia- 
tion of Roundup. 



qualified personnel, probably because 
current needs, especially for construc- 
tion, seemed much more important than 
rather indefinite planning for ROUND- 
UP. These were not the criticisms of 
Barnes alone, but also of other impor- 
tant officials at SOS headquarters. 

In the meantime, through the last 
few months of 1942, Colonel Barnes' 
group broadened its field, not only in 
planning for the future, but also in pre- 
senting the SOS and ETOUSA engi- 
neer view on any new procedures adopt- 
ed in the theater. Finally, in November, 
Col. Royal B. Lord, then chief of the 
Operations and Training Division, de- 
clared that "the time has arrived to put 
all planning under Colonel Barnes." 63 

Near the end of 1942, most officers 
in OCE could agree that the rather arti- 
ficial separation of ETOUSA and SOS 
headquarters impeded efficient oper- 
ations. 64 Yet despite the problem of the 
drain that TORCH imposed on engineer 
personnel and resources in the United 
Kingdom, by the end of the year very 
real progress had been made in build- 
ing an organization that would play an 
important role in preparing for the 
cross-Channel invasion in 1943 and 
1944. Although many problems were 
left unsolved, the machinery for the 
buildup to come was put together in 



62 O&T Informal Memo, 23 Oct 42, on relations 
between ETO and SOS, file Organization Oct— Dec 
42, OCE ETOUSA Hist Records; Memo, Milwit for 
Harwood, 5 Nov 42, SOS and OCE Organization, OCE 
ETOUSA Hist Records; Memo, Moore for Reybold, 
30 Nov 42, sub: Engr Problems in ETO, 381 War 
Plans (Jun 42-Jul 43), EUCOM Engr files. 

6 * Memo, Barnes for Moore, 12 Oct 42, 319.1 ETO 
(weekly), Jul 42- Apr 43, EUCOM Engr files; Memo, 
Lord for Moore, 2 Nov 42. 

1,4 Memo, Col Harwood for Div Chfs, OCE, 12 Nov 
42, w/replies and related material in file Organization 
Oct-Dec 42, OCE ETOUSA Hist Records. 



34 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



the spring and summer of 1942. Re- 
peated changes in SOS and engineer 
troop allotments upset planning, but 
the organization, hurriedly assembled 



in a strange land under the stress of 
war, worked reasonably well in carry- 
ing out a quartering and construction 
program across the British Isles. 



CHAPTER III 



The Engineer Machine in Motion in 
the United Kingdom, 1942 



The engineer force in the United 
Kingdom spent the months following 
the formal organization of the theater 
command struggling to fulfill its obliga- 
tions under the BOLERO Plan, which 
was beset by problems of organization 
and direction, supply, personnel, 
methodology, weather, and geography. 
Efficient management was difficult if 
not impossible given uncertain goals, 
insufficient personnel, and a bifurcate 
theater structure. The TORCH decision 
disrupted the Bolero program before 
it could build up any momentum and 
scattered the engineer effort. Never- 
theless, an important beginning was 
made in 1942 in creating a base in 
England for an eventual cross-Channel 
invasion, and the engineer effort was 
no small part of that accomplishment. 1 

Personnel 

Engineers formed part of the ground 



' Unless otherwise indicated this chapter is based 
on Min of Mtgs, Jun-Dec 42, USFET Engr 337; Rpts, 
1942-44, EUCOM Engr file 319.1; and related docu- 
ments in the following EUCOM Engr Files: 321 Engrs, 
381 Supply 1942-43, 381 Bolero, 381 War Plans, 
400 Maintenance, 475 Engr Equipment, and Daily Jnl 
(Supply and Adm Services), Jun 42-Jul 43. Other 
sources used throughout, but not always separately 
cited, are Moore, Final Report, and Ruppenthal, Logis- 
tical Support of the Armies, Volume I. 



and air force troop bases as well as that 
of the Services of Supply, but the ser- 
vice force engineers were supposed to 
do most of the static force construction 
work. Service engineers in the force 
sent to Northern Ireland had been 
outnumbered by combat engineers, 
who consequently had to do construc- 
tion work for which they had not been 
trained. In an effort to avoid such a 
situation in the whole United Kingdom 
buildup, the Office of the Chief of 
Engineers (OCE) in Washington asked 
the War Department to provide 16,000 
men immediately for twelve general 
service regiments and ten dump truck 
companies. They were to be sent over- 
seas with a minimum of basic military 
training. Late in March General Chaney 
asked for three general service regi- 
ments and for a like number of engi- 
neer aviation battalions to assist the 
British in building those airfields to be 
turned over to the American air force. 
Early in May 1942 the Office of the 
Chief of Engineers (OCE), USAFBI, 
made its first formal requisition for ten 
general service regiments (13,000 men) 
and ten engineer aviation battalions 
(7,000 men) to arrive in the theater 
between June and October. Not count- 
ing aviation battalions, USAFBI then 
expected there would be some 40,330 



36 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



U.S. Army engineers in Britain at the 
time of the Continental invasion. Of 
these, the two largest groups would be 
combat units (1 1,394 men) and general 
service units (17,626 men). 2 

These calculations were soon out- 
dated by those surrounding the formal 
inception of the BOLERO program. The 
first tentative BOLERO troop basis 
drawn up in Washington in early May 
contemplated a force of 1,042,000 for 
ROUNDUP, about 25 percent service 
troops. Later in May the War Depart- 
ment prescribed priorities for ship- 
ment — first air units, then essential 
SOS units, then ground forces, followed 
by additional service units to prepare 
for more ground force troops. Within 
these general lines, the theater was 
expected to prescribe priorities for par- 
ticular types of units. The scheme was 
logical enough, but it broke down in 
practice in the face of shipping short- 
ages, lack of trained service troops, and 
Finally the midsummer shift in strategy. 

Early in June 1942 (coincident with 
the first BOLERO Key Plan) the War 
Department submitted to ETOUSA a 
more detailed breakdown of a troop 
basis that totaled 1,071,060 men. The 
War Department allotted just over 
104,000 engineers to the theater: 
31,648 in a total of 279,145 troops for 
the Services of Supply; 54,380 in a 
ground force troop strength of 
585,565; and 18,909 aviation engineers 
in an Air Forces strength of 206,400. 
General Davison argued for increases 
in all categories to raise the total engi- 



2 Memo, O&T Br, Trp Dir. OGE, for CofEngrs, 1 1 
Mar 42; Lir, CG, USAFBI, 2 Apr 42; Memo, O&T 
Div for CofS, USAFBI, 5 May 42; and Bolero Move- 
ment Schedule, 9 May 42; all in OCE ETOUSA Hist 
Records. 



neer troop strength to about 147,000, 
but he received no concessions. Indeed, 
on the premise that the command could 
use quartermaster units for many jobs, 
the SOS allocation was reduced to 
29,500. 3 

The Operations and Training Divi- 
sion of the Office of the Chief of Engi- 
neers (OCE), ETOUSA, had made 
Davison's estimates, using the capabili- 
ties of engineer units against the tasks 
to be performed. For example, depot 
troop requirements were calculated 
from the number of depots and the ton- 
nage to be handled, and maintenance 
companies from the number of pieces 
of equipment to be kept in condition. 
But calculations depended on the troop 
basis figure, which constantly changed. 
Not until the fall of 1943 could a defi- 
nite ETO troop basis be evolved for 
either SOS or combat engineers. Fur- 
thermore, the value of these tentative 
troop bases was questionable because 
the number of trained engineer troops 
to support the forces involved was so 
limited. Planning for aviation engineer 
units was originally based on one air 
force, the Eighth, which included inter- 
ceptor, bomber, fighter, and service 
commands. After TORCH, a decision 
came to have two air forces, strategic 
and tactical. The Air Forces estimated 
the number of engineer aviation battal- 
ions required, although the chief engi- 
neer concurred in the proposed total. 4 



J Memo, Davison for Baker, 25 Jun 42; Memo, 
Davison for Pence, 1 Jul 42; and Memo, SOS, ETOUSA, 
14 Jul 42, sub: Troop Requirements; all in 321 Engrs, 
1942 (Jun-Sep), EUCOM Engr files. 

4 Moore, Final Report, pp. 42-45; OCE ETOUSA 
Hist Rpt 4, Troops (United Kingdom), 1946, p. 17, 
Liaison Sect, Intel Div, ETOUSA Adm file 547; 
Albrecht, "Engineer Aspects of Operation Bolero," 
pp. 119-20. 



THE ENGINEER MACHINE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM, 1942 



37 



The problem of the shifting troop 
basis was compounded by that of find- 
ing units to fulfill the plan of the mo- 
ment. Before Pearl Harbor the U.S. 
Army had few trained service units, and 
after that day the great cry was for com- 
bat forces. The War Department was 
slow to recognize the need for service 
forces and to start their training. 5 At a 
May SOS conference in Washington 
Colonel Larkin said that a half-trained 
man in the theater was better than no 
man at all. Accepting this philosophy, 
the War Department authorized the 
early shipment of 10,000 service troops 
to the ETO, many of whom were in- 
deed half trained. 

Already plagued by the lack of 
trained units and an acute shipping 
shortage, the whole BOLERO schedule 
was thrown off by TORCH. In August 
word came from the War Department 
that no more SOS engineers were to be 
stationed in the United Kingdom, while 
many of the units there were alerted 
for movement to North Africa. In Sep- 
tember a new tentative troop basis was 
published by G-4, ETO, based on the 
adjustment for TORCH and the 427,000- 
man force reflected in the third 
BOLERO Plan. In this plan engineers 
were to provide 45,000 men or 10.5 
percent of the total force — 16,600 in 
an SOS force of 106,000; 6,000 in a 
ground force of 159,000; and 23,000 
aviation engineers in an Air Forces 
strength of 157,000. 



5 On the overall problem of service troops in the 
troop basis in 1942, see Richard M. Leighton and Rob- 
ert W. Coakley, Global Logistics and Strategy, 1940-43 
(Washington, 1956), pp. 346-52, and Kent Roberts 
Greenfield, Robert R. Palmer, and Bell I. Wiley, The 
Organization of Ground Combat Troops (Washington, 
1947), pp. 159-260; both in the United States Army 
in World War II series. 



The actualities were somewhat dif- 
ferent. On 1 July 1942, of 58,845 
Americans in the ETO, then chiefly in 
Northern Ireland, only 2,150 were en- 
gineers. By November the ETO total 
was 255,155 and the number of engi- 
neers had risen to more than 40,000, 
but 18,554 of them had left England 
for North Africa by January 1943. The 
21,858 left represented 20 percent of 
the remaining ETOUSA command, a 
percentage in line with General Lee's 
policy to deploy engineers to the United 
Kingdom early to prepare the way for 
air and ground forces. But the actual 
number of engineers was still well below 
the 45,000 authorized to be there in 
the next two months and was insuffi- 
cient to perform tasks under the 
427,000-man plan, much less the long- 
range plan for a million-man force. 
Moreover, organizing new units such 
as pipeline companies and separate 
water supply companies for TORCH, as 
well as transfers to fill units alerted for 
North Africa, left the remaining engi- 
neer units in the United Kingdom with 
a shortage of 3,000 men. 6 

The problems of requisitioning engi- 
neers and of supervising assignment 
and promotion in the Office of the 
Chief of Engineers (OCE), SOS, were 
the concern of the Personnel and Ad- 
ministration Division, OCE, organized 
in July 1942. The division's first chief 



fi Folder, Engr Serv in UK; OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 
4, Troops, app. 2; SOS ETOUSA Statistical Summary 
XII, 12 Oct; XIV, 26 Oct; and XV, 2 Nov; Statistical 
Summaries, 319.25, EUCOM Engr files; ETO Gen 
Bd Rpt 128, Logistical Build-up in the British Isles, p. 
47; RG 741, Gen Bd 401/13, Logistical Buildup in the 
UK, EUCOM Engr files; Ltr, OCE, SOS ETOUSA, to 
SOS ETOUSA, 19 Dec 42, sub: New Engineer Troop 
Basis, 320.3, EUCOM Engr files; Memo, Moore for 
Reybold, 30 Nov 42, sub: Engr Problems in ETO. 



38 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



was Maj. J. M. Franey, soon succeeded 
by Maj. Beryl C. Brooks. The division 
initially edited the consolidated per- 
sonnel requisitions which engineer units 
submitted and then transmitted them 
to G— 1, SOS, whence they went to 
G- 1, ETOUSA, and finally to the War 
Department. This procedure proved 
cumbersome and slow, and OCE, SOS, 
ordered engineer units to submit 
monthly requisitions directly to G— 1, 
SOS, with OCE assisting in a staff capac- 
ity to process the requisitions through 
G-l/ 

The division had difficulty in obtain- 
ing authorized personnel. Requisition- 
ing officers and enlisted men by name 
took too long. Early in 1942 many offi- 
cers assigned to OCE and to base sec- 
tions came from a reserve pool; many 
others were former engineer division 
and district officers from the Zone of 
the Interior (ZI). The 342d, 332d, and 
341st Engineer General Service Regi- 
ments, among the earliest engineer 
units dispatched to Britain, were filled 
with men experienced in civilian con- 
struction work, obtained under special 
OCE recruiting authority. 8 

In July 1942 General Larkin had 
complained of a lack of military experi- 
ence among engineer officers, and in 
October Colonel Moore found that 84 
of 27 1 officers in the base sections and 
in OCE, ETOUSA, had no previous 
military experience. Among the re- 



1 OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt l, Organization, Admin- 
istration, and Personnel, pp. 5, 17, 21 -23 and app. 2; 
Memo, OCE, SOS ETOUSA (Personnel and Adm 
Div), for Col Harwood, 14 Nov 42, Organization, 
Oct-Dec 42; OCE, SOS ETOUSA, Cir 2, 2 Jul 42, 
Orgn Charts, ETOUSA SOS Commands. 

8 Ltr, Col Harwood to Col William W. Bessell, Jr., 
OCE, WD, 321.02 Engr Officers (27 Jul-31 Oct 42), 
EUCOM Engr files; Interv, Dr. John S. G. Shotwell 
with Col William W. Bessell, Jr., 9 Sep 50. 



maining 187 officers, 170 were from 
the National Guard or the Officers 
Reserve Corps with little active military 
experience. Of seventeen Regular 
Army officers, four were quite young 
and six were tapped for the impending 
TORCH operation. Only seven experi- 
enced officers remained to handle the 
eleven important jobs of chief engineer, 
chief engineer's deputy, executive, divi- 
sion chiefs, supervisor of engineer 
schools, and three base section engineer 
posts. SOS engineer units averaged one 
regular or former regular per regi- 
ment, and sometimes he was of junior 
grade. Most of the remaining officers 
were commissioned in the Army of the 
United States (AUS). 9 

Aviation engineer units lacked skilled 
construction personnel. The total con- 
struction experience among thirty-two 
officers of one aviation battalion added 
up to two years, while few battalions 
had an experienced unit engineering 
officer. Conditions were no better in 
the lower ranks, and inexperienced 
officers had to do much of the work of 
even more inexperienced noncommis- 
sioned officers. To remedy the situa- 
tion Colonel Moore recommended that 
the post of engineering officer in an 
engineer aviation battalion be raised 



;) Ltr, Larkin to OCE, WD, 30 Jul 42, sub; Engr 
Supplies, Equipment, Personnel, and Units, 38 1 War 
Plans (Jul 42-Jul 43), EUCOM Engr files; Memo, 
OCE, SOS ETOUSA, for G-l, ETOUSA, 13 Oct 42, 
321 Engr Officers, EUCOM Engr files; AUS, Army 
of the United States, refers to the temporary military 
organization established in wartime encompassing the 
Regular Army, the National Guard while in federal 
service, the organized reserves, all draftees, and offi- 
cers specially appointed in the wartime establishment 
but not in any particular component. The last was the 
category in which civil engineers in great demand for 
war zone or domestic projects received commissions 
and rank in the military organizations they were join- 
ing at home or overseas. 



THE ENGINEER MACHINE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM, 1942 



39 



from the rank of captain to that of 
major. 10 

TORCH drew heavily on experienced 
units and key officers with executive 
and administrative ability. The Offices 
of the Chief of Engineers, SOS, and 
ETOUSA, and the base sections gave 
TORCH sixty-five officers, including 
Generals Larkin and Davison and Colo- 
nel Pence and Lt. Col. Howard H. Reed 
of the Supply Division. Headquarters, 
ETOUSA, alerted four battalions of avi- 
ation engineers for North Africa. To 
bring these units to full strength, SOS 
had to draw on the remaining twelve 
battalions for both officers and enlisted 
men. For example, the 830th gave 30 
men per company to the 814th; the 
809th, also bound for North Africa, 
drew 105 men from the 832d and 57 
from the 825th. Engineer general ser- 
vice regiments and combat battalions 
also helped fill out alerted units. 

Training 

The problems created by personnel 
shortages and transfers were com- 
pounded by the inadequate training of 
engineers in the theater. Many engi- 
neer troops lacked not only specialist 
training but even adequate basic train- 
ing. The Corps of Engineers' size dou- 
bled in the first six months of U.S. par- 
ticipation in World War II, and train- 
ing new personnel for urgent demands 
was impossible." 



10 Memo, Moore for Reybold, 30 Nov 42, sub: Reply 
to Questionnaire, 381 War Plans (Jun 42 -Jul 43), 
EUCOM Engr Tiles; Unit Hist, 818th Engr Avn Bn. 

" OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 4, Troops, pp. 2-3; 
Greenfield, Palmer, and Wiley, The Organization of 
Ground Combat Troops, p. 203; Ann Rpt, OCE, WD, 
1942, p. 3; See Coll, Keith, and Rosenthal. TV Corfo 
of Engineers: Troops and Equipment, chs] 5|l7j|l 1 j|l5.|l6l 
for detailed treatment of engineer training in the Zone 
of the Interior. 



Colonel Lord, deputy chief engineer, 
ETOUSA, concluded in December 
1 942 that basic training had to be com- 
pleted in the United States. He did not 
stand alone in this judgment, although 
it was in conflict with Colonel Larkin's 
belief that a half-trained man was bet- 
ter than no man. 12 Many half-trained 
engineer troops reached the ETO. Six 
general service regiments arrived in the 
Eastern Base Section area in the sum- 
mer of 1942; they had received an aver- 
age of ten weeks' basic training between 
their organization in the United States 
and their departure for a port of em- 
barkation. Losses of cadres for newly 
formed units weakened many engineer 
organizations shortly before they went 
overseas. Some engineer unit officers, 
even commanders, were transferred to 
other units after reaching the port of 
embarkation. However necessary it was 
to build up a large force, the immedi- 
ate effect on particular units was one 
of incalculable harm. 13 

Many units were brought up to 
strength only at the port of embarka- 
tion. In 1942 the 397th Engineer Depot 
Company arrived at Fort Dix, a staging 
area for the New York Port of Embar- 
kation (POE), with 4 officers and 68 
enlisted men, picking up an additional 
104 enlisted men at Dix. In another 
case the 830th Engineer Aviation Bat- 
talion received 82 percent of its enlisted 



12 Ltr, Col R. B. Lord, Dep Chf Engr, ETOUSA, to 
Col J. H. Carruth, G-3, ETOUSA, 26 Dec 42; Memo, 
Col Albrecht, Construction Div, for Col R. B. Lord, 
13 Jan 43, 325.51 Policies and Plans, EUCOM Engr 
files; Lee Diary, entry for 18 May 42. 

m Hists: 470th Engr Maint Co; 98th, 344th, 346th 
Engr GS Rgts; 424th, 433d, 434th Engr Dump Truck 
Cos; 397th, 450th Engr Depot Cos; 817th, 818th, 
819th, 831st, 834th Avn Bns; Ltr, Lt Col James E. 
Walsh to CofEngrs, 28 Dec 43, sub; Operation of GS 
Rgt, D1784, Engr Sch Lib; Bennett interv. 



40 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



men and 50 percent of its officers be- 
tween 29 July and 9 August 1942, be- 
fore entraining for Fort Dix on 1 1 
August. Units manned in such fashion 
could hardly be characterized as cohe- 
sive. 

The hope persisted that basic train- 
ing could be completed in the United 
Kingdom and that the troops could 
learn their special skills on the job. 
Good construction experience could be 
gained, as could some training for am- 
phibious operations, but not for such 
combat skills as laying and removing 
mines, booby traps, and other obstacles 
and rapidly building and reinforcing 
bridges. Engineer aviation units, which 
were kept busy constructing permanent 
bomber bases, could not be trained for 
building hasty airfields in forward 
areas. Reports on North African opera- 
tions later highlighted such deficien- 
cies. 14 

The chief of engineers in Washing- 
ton formally recognized the vital need 
for training, but practical considera- 
tions prevented rapid solutions. A sup- 
ply plan issued in September 1942 left 
a loophole for tired construction units 
in England, then working seven days a 
week on day and night shifts, by provid- 
ing that training be carried on with 
minimum interference to unit duties 
and tasks. Thus during 1942, training 
was overshadowed — first by the buildup 
and then by preparations for TORCH. 
In practice, the time spent on training 
varied from one hour in eight to one in 
ten. Some troops took one hour for five 
days, then four hours on the sixth day. 
Two aviation battalions, the 818th and 



14 Memo, Col Albrecht for Col Lord, 13 Jan 43; 
Interv, Lt Col S. A. McMillion with Col Albrecht, 1 1 
Dec 43. 



the 825th, worked ten hours a day and 
set aside one day a week for training. 
Later, these and other units trained on 
Sundays. Some general service regi- 
ments alerted for North Africa trained 
one battalion for a week while the other 
battalion continued construction work; 
but, in general, training schedules, no 
matter how elaborate on paper, had lit- 
tle actual meaning. 

The chief obstacle was the buildup. 
Each hour spent away from actual work 
delayed buildup goals. The official 
viewpoint — that training was a diver- 
sion — affected the attitude of all per- 
sonnel. Even after TORCH started, the 
engineer troops remaining in England 
had construction or other urgent tasks 
to perform, and realistic training was 
nearly impossible. 15 

There were other obstacles. Space 
was limited in the British Isles; lumber 
to build training quarters was scarce 
and equipment hard to come by. Some 
units fell back on their own resources. 
The 434th Engineer Dump Truck 
Company, for example, set up its own 
crane operator school, while other units 
did the same for brickwork, plumbing, 
steel construction, and electrical equip- 
ment installation. Engineers from vari- 
ous units received valuable military 
training at schools for enlisted men set 
up at Shrivenham, Berkshire, in what 
became known as the American School 
Center. 

Just as important was the training 
offered by the British. Perhaps the best 



15 Memo, CofEngrs and CG, SOS, WD, for G-4, 
SOS ETOUSA, 23 Sep 42, sub: Revision of Supply 
Plan, ETO, 381 Supply 1942-43, EUCOM Engr files; 
Blueprint, 343d Engr GS Rgt, 15 Sep 42 entry, Col 
R. M. Edgar's personal files; Memo, OCE, SBS, SOS 
ETOUSA, Lt R. A. Cosgrove for Lt Col C. J. Barker, 1 2 
Aug 42, sub: Field Notes From Southern Base Section, 
600 Rpts, 20 Jun 42-29 Jul 43, EUCOM Engr files. 



THE ENGINEER MACHINE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM, 1942 



41 



British school open to American engi- 
neers was the School of Military Engi- 
neering at Ripon, Yorkshire, which 
gave instruction in field work, bridging, 
electrical and mechanical work, military 
duties, and bomb disposal. Here U.S. 
Army engineers learned the value of 
the Bailey bridge. Courses ranged from 
two to five weeks, and after a time 
American instructors, including engi- 
neers, augmented the staff. 16 Other 
British institutions open to U.S. Army 
engineers included the railroad engi- 
neering school, the British staff college, 
a school that devoted special attention 
to camouflage, a fire-fighting school, a 
military intelligence school, and a div- 
ing school. By the end of 1942, 47 engi- 
neer officers and 185 enlisted men were 
attending British or American military 
training schools in England. 

Supply 

The engineers in the United King- 
dom during 1942 were supplied by the 
United States and by local procurement 
in Britain, from which came the largest 
tonnages. Generals Chaney and Davison 
recognized the need for extensive 
reciprocal aid from the British, and on 
25 May, Headquarters, USAFBI, estab- 
lished a General Purchasing Board and 
a Board of Contracts and Adjustments. 



Ifi Ltr, Lt Col James E. Walsh to CofEngrs, 28 Dec 
43, sub: Operations GS Rgts; Rpt, Engr Office, 
USANIF, to Engr, ETOUSA, 17 Feb 42, sub: Interim 
Rpt, Engr USANIF, O&T Br, OCE, Northern Ire- 
land file; Ltr, Maj H. C. Trask to Base Sect Engr, 
NIBS, 14 Sep 42, sub: SME (Sch of Military Engi- 
neering, Brit), 103-SME-Ripon 1942-43, EUCOM 
Engr files; Memo, OCE, SOS ETOUSA, for Col D. B. 
Adams, Chf, O&T Div, OCE, SOS, 15 Aug 42, sub: 
Officers and Enlisted Men Attending British Schools, 
321.02 Engr Officers (27 Jul 42-31 Oct 42), EUCOM 
Engr files. 



Made up of representatives of the chiefs 
of each American service, the General 
Purchasing Board issued procurement 
directives, outlined local procurement 
procedure, and provided information 
on available materials. Before submit- 
ting requisitions for materials from the 
United States, each service sent copies 
to the general purchasing agent (GPA), 
who determined if British materials 
were available. 17 

Local procurement took one of three 
forms: materials that came direct from 
British resources, articles that Britain 
manufactured from material shipped 
from the United States, or substitutes. 
This third form of procurement took 
place when American materials went 
to British overseas forces, principally 
in the Pacific, and were exchanged for 
materials produced in the British Isles. 
The British and Americans did not 
work out a final procurement system 
until mid-October; until then lack of 
clearly defined procedures inhibited 
procurement under reverse lend-lease. 
The engineers frequently found it im- 
possible to obtain needed items through 
the seventeen official British agencies 
involved and turned to local British 
businessmen, a procedure which often 
led to disagreements with the general 
purchasing agent. As late as January 
1943 Col. Douglas C. MacKeachie, the 
GPA, criticized the engineers for con- 
stantly ignoring "most of the policies 
established for procurement in the 
UK." He declared that there had been 
a waste of "crucial tonnage" because the 



"HQ, USAFBI, 25 May 42, Establishment of a Gen 
Purchasing Bd and a Bd of Contracts and Adjust- 
ments in the British Isles for the European Area; and 
HQ, SOS ETOUSA, 17 Jun 42, Function of the Gen 
Purchasing Bd and the Bd of Contracts and Adjust- 
ments; both in USFET, Engr 008 Precedents, 1942. 



42 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



engineers did not follow up, and he 
felt their laxity in figuring requirements 
for reverse lend-lease items had made 
it difficult for the British to plan pro- 
duction. The engineer defense against 
this criticism was that procurement pol- 
icy remained ill-defined until mid- 
October. In any case, Colonel 
MacKeachie admitted that Colonel 
Moore, the chief engineer of SOS and 
ETOUSA, had generally worked out 
satisfactory procedures by January 
1943. 18 

During the last seven months of 1942 
the British provided the engineers with 
211,150 long (2,240-pound) tons of 
supplies under reverse lend-lease, not 
including large quantities of construc- 
tion materials for sheltering and servic- 
ing American troops. Much of this 
material was shipped to North Africa 
to support American forces. Among 
other important items the engineers 
received or requisitioned were Bailey 
bridges, Sommerfeld track (a matting 
made of wire netting reinforced with 
steel), lumber, and essential tools and 
spare parts. Thousands of British civil- 
ian clerks and laborers worked on con- 
struction, depot supply, storage, and 
other projects. At one time, more than 
27,760 civilians contributed to the 
BOLERO program and 20,000 to the 
separate air force engineer develop- 
ment. 19 Two factors inhibited recipro- 



18 HQ,SOS,MinofOrglMtgof . . . Gen Purchasing 
Bd, 26 Jun 42, USFET, Engr 400.12 Procurement, 
1942; HQ, SOS, Final Rpt of Col D. C. MacKeachie, 
GPA, 319.1 Rpts, 1943, EUCOM Engr files; Interv, 
Shotwell with Col T. D. Rogers, 24 Sep 50; Moore, 
Final Report, pp. 189-91. 

19 App. A to Memo, HQ, SOS ETOUSA, for Chiefs, 
Staff Sees and Servs, 20 Feb 43; AMS Min of Mtg, 
Bolero Combined Committee, London, 18 Jul 42; 
Interv, Shotwell with Col George W. Bennett; Memo, 
Moore for CG, SOS ETOUSA, 1 1 Jan 43, 325.51 Poli- 
cies and Plans, EUCOM Engr files. 



cal aid; the first was the limited quan- 
tity of raw materials available in the 
United Kingdom and the second was 
that U.S. Army equipment was stan- 
dardized to American specifications so 
as to make substitution often impossi- 
ble. 20 

During 1942 the engineers received 
from the United States some 75,400 
tons of supplies representing 11,100 
items in the Engineer Supply Catalog. 
The second half of the year saw 58,000 
tons arrive, the peak month being Au- 
gust, when 26,000 tons reached Britain. 
But this tonnage fell far short of pro- 
jected figures in BOLERO planning, and 
again, some quantities were siphoned 
off to North Africa. From the start and 
throughout 1942, no definite priority 
or allocation system existed. 21 

In July 1942 the Engineer Service, 
SOS, set up a Supply Division headed 
by Lt. Col. Thomas DeF. Rogers to 
receive, store, and distribute engineer 
supplies and equipment. The division's 
early days were marked with confusion, 
for none of the personnel initially as- 
signed had any experience in engineer 
supply operations. Ultimately the divi- 
sion established a depot and shop 
branch as well as planning, procure- 
ment, requirements, and transportation 
branches. Supply Division sent a repre- 
sentative to London to maintain liaison 
with the General Purchasing Board and 
sundry British agencies; this office 
gradually evolved into the Procurement 
Branch. Liaison with OCE in Washing- 
ton was not always good, as evidenced 
by Supply Division's lack of catalogs, 



20 Interv, Shotwell with Col A. W. Pence. 

21 SOS ETOUSA Statistical Summary XX], 14 Dec 
42, pp. 15ff; Cbl, Marshall to SPOBS, 20 Feb 42, sub: 
Shipment of Supplies, USAFBI Planning folder 3.00. 



THE ENGINEER MACHINE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM, 1942 



43 



nomenclature lists, TOEs, and TBAs. 
Another difficulty was the failure of the 
Construction and Planning Division of 
OCE, SOS, to recognize that it, and not 
Supply Division, was responsible for 
submitting initial lists of requirements. 
Supply Division worked out a compre- 
hensive engineer supply plan in Octo- 
ber, but by December the North Afri- 
can operation had rendered it obsolete 
and had robbed the division of some of 
its more experienced officers. 22 

Not until December did SOS, GPA, 
and other agencies concerned establish 
a stable system for securing engineer 
supplies from the United States. Under 
this system requisitions went from the 
Supply Division to the deputy chief 
engineer, SOS, and then to G— 4, SOS. 
The general purchasing agent received 
a copy of each requisition to determine 
whether the materials were available in 
the United Kingdom. If not, the requi- 
sitions went to the Overseas Supply 
Division in the New York port. Supply 
Division, OCE, in Washington checked 
the quantities requisitioned and either 
approved them or made arbitrary cuts 
depending upon available stocks. 

In the normal requisitioning cycle 90 
to 120 days passed between the time 
Supply Division, OCE, processed a req- 
uisition and when the articles were 
issued at a depot. This length of time 
often meant that requirements could 
be outdated by the time requisitions 



Tt Moore, Final Report, pp. 22ff; lnterv, Shotwell 
with Rogers, 24 Sep 50; Ltr, Moore to Col C. Rodney 
Smith, OCE, WD, 2 1 Dec 42, sub: Shortage of Supply 
Officers, 475 Engr Equip, Dec 42 -Dec 43, EUCOM 
Engr files; Ltr, OCE, SOS ETOUSA, 13 Oct 42, sub: 
Supply Plan, 300 Supply Plan, EUCOM Engr files; 
OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 3, Supply, (United Kingdom), 
1946, Liaison Sect, Intel Div, ETOUSA Adm file 547, 
and OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 1, Organization, Ad- 
ministration, and Personnel, app. 2. 



were filled. In July 1942 the War De- 
partment authorized a sixty-day level 
for Class II engineer supplies (organiza- 
tional equipment to fill TOE and TBA 
allowances of units) and Class IV items 
(construction supplies) needed for spe- 
cial projects. The sixty-day level was 
prescribed as the "minimum amount 
to be held as a reserve" over and above 
quantities required for normal opera- 
tions, but in practice this level could 
not be maintained and shortages per- 
sisted throughout 1942. 

Even the calculation of requirements 
to meet that level was disrupted by 
TORCH. Requirements for Class II de- 
pended upon numbers and types of 
units, and the North African invasion 
drained units from the United King- 
dom and left the future troop basis 
uncertain; the requirements for Class 
IV supply in North Africa were obvi- 
ously different from those in the Brit- 
ish Isles. TORCH seriously depleted 
British resources, took essential mate- 
rial from U.S. Army engineer units 
remaining in the United Kingdom, and 
practically exhausted depot stocks of 
Class IV supplies in the theater. 

Realizing that the lead time for pro- 
duction and delivery of most special 
project material was twelve to eighteen 
months, Colonel Moore, in December, 
sought to rebuild Class IV stockpiles in 
the United Kingdom and appointed a 
board to estimate future requirements 
and delivery schedules. The move 
seemed to fly in the face of a Somervell 
directive dated 18 November 1942, stat- 
ing that no supplies were to be sent to 
Britain beyond those necessary to equip 
the 427,000 men scheduled to be in 
England by spring 1943. But General 
Somervell hardly intended this figure 
to be sacrosanct, for an ultimate cross- 



44 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



Channel invasion was still the principal 
tenet of American strategy. 23 

One of the most frequent complaints 
of engineer units was that their Class II 
equipment did not reach them until 
weeks after they arrived in the United 
Kingdom. Most troop transports car- 
ried little or no equipment, sending it 
instead by slow-moving freighters. It 
was almost impossible to bring men and 
equipment together simultaneously in 
the United Kingdom. When units were 
still in camp in the United States they 
needed their equipment for training. 
Taking the equipment from the men 
at least a month before departure 
would have been necessary for it to 
arrive overseas at the same time as the 
troops, and even then there would have 
been no guarantee. Some equipment 
was lost in ports or depots or sent to 
the bottom by German submarines. 
The 817th Engineer Aviation Battalion, 
on its arrival in July 1942, had 1 transit, 
100 axes, and 100 shovels for 800 men, 
while several other units had nothing 
but jeeps. Two months after their ar- 
rival in late summer, four engineer avi- 
ation battalions had received less than 
one-third of their heavy equipment. 
Borrowing British equipment alleviated 
problems somewhat, but such loans 



23 Ltr, HQ, SOS ETOUSA, to CG, ETOUSA, 13 
Dec 42, sub: Policy in Procurement of Engineer Sup- 
plies to Support Future Operations, 381 Supply 
1942-43, EUCOM Engr files; Interv, Col Barnes, 7 
Nov 50; Memo, OCE, SOS ETOUSA, for Col Elmer 
E. Barnes, 6 Nov 42, sub: Engineer Class IV Supplies, 
400 General (Nov 42- Feb 43), EUCOM Engr files; 
Lt Herbert French, The Administrative and Logistical 
History of the European Theater of Operations, vol. 
Ill, "Troop and Supply Buildup in the UK Prior to 
D-Day," p. 70, in CMH; Leighton and Coakley, Global 
Logistics and Strategy, 1940-43, pp. 322—36 and app. 
F. 



were limited. The lack of tools was a 
major factor in retarding construction. 24 

The War Department or Headquar- 
ters, ETOUSA, regulated the supply 
and issue of many scarce items. Those 
under War Department allocation reg- 
ulation were known as controlled items; 
those in short supply in ETO were des- 
ignated critical items by the theater 
command. Throughout 1942 the sup- 
ply of items in both categories remained 
unsatisfactory, and as late as mid- 
December such engineer equipment as 
air compressors, generators, welding 
sets, compasses, mine detectors, gas 
cylinders, gas pipeline supplies, pumps, 
D— 7 tractors with angledozers, and 
truck-mounted cranes remained in 
short supply. 25 

Nevertheless, by the end of 1942 U.S. 
Army engineer units in England had 
received 90 percent of their heavy con- 
struction equipment from the United 
States and 70 percent of their general- 
purpose vehicles. But few additional 
engineer troops had been stationed in 
the United Kingdom since 1 Septem- 
ber, and some serious shortages 
remained — a result of the unavoidable 
time lag in manufacturing heavy equip- 
ment in the United States and an un- 
foreseen heavy demand for it in all 
theaters. Too few Class II items were 
arriving, and only about 27 percent of 
items not under special controls were 



24 Unit Hist, 470th Engr Maint Co; Interv, Col B. D. 
Cassidy; Adm and Log Hist of the ETO, vol. Ill, 
"Troop and Supply Buildup in the UK Prior to 
D-Day," p. 155; Ltr, Moore to CE, WD, 3! Oct 42, 
sub: Equipment for Avn Bns, 475 Engr Equip, Oct— 
Nov 42, EUCOM Engr files. 

25 Memo, OCE, SOS ETOUSA, for G-4, SOS ETO- 
USA, 1 1 Dec 42, sub: Critical Items, atchd to Memo, 
sub: G-4 Logistical Book, 325.51 Policies and Plans, 
EUCOM Engr files. 



THE ENGINEER MACHINE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM, 1942 



45 



available for initial issue requirements. 
With shortages already prevalent, SOS 
had to equip units alerted for TORCH 
by stripping equipment from units 
scheduled to remain in England. 26 

Many other supply problems arose. 
Poor packing in the United States often 
resulted in saltwater damage. Improper 
handling caused more loss, and worn 
or used supplies showed up all too 
frequently. Sometimes various parts of 
equipment arrived in separate con- 
tainers, and in other cases some parts 
never arrived at all. Vague and ambigu- 
ous ship manifests caused countless 
hours to be spent in sorting equipment. 
Equipment lost for long periods had to 
be requisitioned again. Spare parts in 
large quantities left the United States, 
yet months later some units had not 
received a single box. In July a machine 
training detachment (a captain and 
twelve sergeants) began working at 
Liverpool, the chief freight port, super- 
vising the unloading and loading of all 
engineer equipment and greatly re- 
duced the confusion. This and other 
steps improved matters so that by 
November engineer equipment reached 
the proper units ten days after it 
landed. 2 * 



26 Rpt, OCE, SOS ETOUSA, 7 Jan 43, sub: Status 
Rpt, CE 3 19. 1 , Status Rpts, OCE, Dec 42 -Jul 43; Unit 
Hist, 470th Engr Maint Co; Rpt, HQ, EBS, 12 Apr 
44, sub: Rpt of Activities of the Eastern Base Section, 
Hist of the Office of the Base Section Engr, EUCOM 
Engr files; Ltr, OCE, ETOUSA (C. Rodney Smith), to 
Engr, SOS ETOUSA, 22 Sep 42, sub: Maint of Engr 
319.1 (9-11-42), QG14- 1942-44, USFET Engr 
files. 

27 Entries Aug— Oct 42 in Quartering Div, OCE, 
ETOUSA, Daily Jnl and Supply Div Daily Jnl, EUCOM 
Engr files; Ltr, OCE, ETOUSA (C. Rodney Smith), to 
Engr, SOS ETOUSA, 22 Sep 42, sub: Maint of Engr 
Equipment in the ETO, Supplies Misc 1942, file 1004, 
NIBS Engr files; Interv, Col A. L. Hartfield, 19 Sep 
50. 



The depot system serving American 
forces in the United Kingdom ex- 
panded slowly, laboring under the same 
organizational, geographic, and man- 
power restraints that hobbled the entire 
ETOUSA operation in its early stages. 
The engineers had specified areas for 
supply in general depots, or they set 
up their own depots. The system began 
to take shape with Desertmartin in 
Northern Ireland and eventually 
amounted to ten installations in the first 
year. As shipments from the United 
States increased, American planners in 
the theater moved depot operations 
into large warehouses in Liverpool, 
Bristol, and other smaller ports on 
Britain's west coast. In June 1942 the 
British turned over to U.S. Army con- 
trol, under the general command of 
Chief Quartermaster Brig. Gen. Rob- 
ert McG. Littlejohn, several existing 
British Army depots, among them a 
recently constructed facility at Ash- 
church, just south of Liverpool. Engi- 
neer supply in the summer of 1942 was 
concentrated at this general depot and 
at a former Royal Ordnance depot at 
Thatcham-Newbury, sixty miles due 
west of London, also shared with other 
service arms. A small, exclusively engi- 
neer depot was established in British 
quarters at Huntingdon, sixty miles 
north of London, to supply airfield con- 
struction units in the Eastern Base Sec- 
tion with building materials. But the 
planned storage capacity for the troop 
buildup under BOLERO still awaited 
construction. If the consolidation of 
supply requests was the province of the 
quartermaster, providing the storage 
space and the physical fixtures was the 
responsibility of the chief engineer. 28 

28 Moore, Final Report, pp. 179-80; Ruppenthal, 
Logistical Support of the Armies, Volume I, p. 152. 



46 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



Decisions on the location of new 
depots were complicated by the neces- 
sity to share buildings with the British 
and by the lack of space at more desir- 
able sites. The threat of German air 
attack induced the British government 
to disperse depot installations in un- 
likely spots. American engineers fol- 
lowed this principle to some extent, but, 
also influenced by the plan for a large 
BOLERO static force, they gave some 
thought to locating the depots so as to 
support both the buildup and the sub- 
sequent invasion of Europe. 

By the end of 1942, the engineers 
had constructed additional depots in 
the English interior. All of them suf- 
fered problems of transport. Inter- 
depot shipments were made impracti- 
cal by circuitous and slow rail service 
and by an inventory system that failed 
to show changes in the location of mate- 
rial; by fall of 1942, theater policy for- 
bade movement of materiel between the 
depots. In September the Thatcham- 
Newbury installation had 85,000 tons 
of engineer supplies on hand with the 
450th Engineer Depot Company there 
handling the supply needs of the South- 
ern Base Section. The Engineer Sec- 
tion at Ashchurch not only became a 
spare parts repository but also took care 
of the general engineer supply for west- 
ern and northern England. Though 
limited in space, another general depot 
associated with Cardiff and Newport 
on the Bristol Channel was the only 
port depot in the system and contrib- 
uted in the fall of 1942 to the direct 
flow of materiel into the Southern Base 
Section from the United States. 

Shortages in trained supply techni- 
cians and the absence of a standard 
nomenclature list for items of supply 
posed other problems. Through the 



summer, the 450th Engineer Depot 
Company at Thatcham-Newbury, com- 
plemented by British civilians, was the 
only unit in the country handling engi- 
neer depot supplies. The civilians were 
largely untrained in wholesale stock 
management, and the depot company 
found conditions and procedures total- 
ly different. The demands of TORCH 
were particularly felt here. Six depot 
companies were scheduled to arrive in 
England by the end of the year; of the 
two that came, one shipped out imme- 
diately for Africa, and the experienced 
450th found itself in Algeria in late 
November 1942. Stock records and 
daily tally-in and -out cards were unre- 
liable. Illegible and ambivalent nota- 
tions made some records useless, and 
inventories at various locations differed 
in the description of identical items 
until the ETOUSA chief engineer's 
office produced a standard depot man- 
ual in February 1 943 and a combined 
British-American nomenclature list the 
following month. Difficulties in stock 
and depot control brought the direct 
attention of the chief engineer to the 
lowest levels of the command, an unde- 
sirable situation since directives and ver- 
bal instructions then bypassed the base 
section commands having jurisdiction 
over the areas in which individual 
depots were located. 29 

Another serious problem in 1942 was 
equipment maintenance. Normally, five 
echelons of repair existed for heavy engi- 
neer and other equipment. The using 



2<J Moore, Final Report, p. 180; Ltr, ColJ. S. Gorlinski, 
O&T Br, Trps Div, OCE, WD, to Col Chorpening, 
Supply Div, OCE, WD, 2 Jul 42, sub: Depot Compa- 
nies for Bolero, 381 Bolero, folio 1, O&T Div (Rec- 
Ret), OCE files; Supply Div, OCE, SOS ETOUSA, 1 
Sep 42, Control Folder, and SOS ETOUSA GO 7, 1 1 
Jul 42. 



THE ENGINEER MACHINE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM, 1942 



47 



units took care of first and second 
echelons, mainly preventive mainte- 
nance such as lubrication, cleaning, 
tightening, and minor replacements. 
Engineer maintenance companies took 
care of third and fourth echelon work, 
which involved major assembly replace- 
ments and technical repairs; engineer 
heavy shop companies undertook fifth 
echelon maintenance — salvaging, re- 
building, and reconditioning. This was 
the prescribed procedure, but under 
conditions existing in Britain in 1942 
the engineers could not fully implement 
it. Maintenance operations were slow 
in getting under way and proved unsat- 
isfactory throughout the period. 30 

The 467th Engineer Maintenance 
Company, the first engineer mainte- 
nance unit to arrive in the theater, 
reached Northern Ireland in March 
1942 as a skeleton organization made 
up of company headquarters and one 
maintenance platoon. In early Novem- 
ber the unit moved to the Eastern Base 
Section where it performed not only 
third and fourth echelon maintenance 
for which it was trained but also fifth 
echelon work. In August, after only a 
few weeks of training, the 470th Engi- 
neer Maintenance Company arrived 
from the United States as a complete 
unit and set up at Ashchurch. With only 
half of its equipment, the company had 
to borrow tools and parts from the 
47 1st Engineer Maintenance Company, 
which had arrived in England at the 
same time. Moreover, the company 
repeatedly had to provide cadres for 
new units. OCE, SOS, never issued any 
directives defining the company's func- 
tions, and few engineer troops outside 



3U Engr Supply Precedents, Engr Sch Lib text, pp. 
222-26, Engr Sch Lib. 



the immediate Ashchurch area were 
aware that it existed and that it could 
aid them. The company left England 
for North Africa late in November 
1942. 

The October supply plan had called 
for maintenance shops at Ashchurch, 
Shrivenham in Berkshire, and Brain- 
tree in Essex. For lack of equipment, 
these shops were not close to operating 
at full capacity by the year's end. Indi- 
vidual engineer units felt shortages in 
maintenance equipment just as acutely 
as did the shops. Aviation and other 
engineer units constantly called for 
mobile shops, tools, and tool sets. 
Though schedules called for mainte- 
nance machinery to be used eight to 
ten hours a day, shortages compelled 
engineer units to use them at times for 
more than twenty hours. 

Despite these handicaps the engi- 
neers took on considerable mainte- 
nance work and occasionally the duties 
of the Ordnance Department. In the 
late fall of 1942, engineers in the South- 
ern Base Section were responsible not 
only for maintaining engineer equip- 
ment but also for operating most of the 
motor vehicles. Even with shortages of 
repair parts and operating manuals, 
most men did their best to keep their 
equipment in good condition. The 
dearth of facilities and tools forced men 
to do things on their own, to employ 
expedients, and to learn the intricacies 
of each tool, machine, or vehicle. On 
the other hand, losses and damages 
inevitably resulted because so many 
operators lacked adequate training. 31 



Sl Ltr, OCE, SOS ETOUSA, 13 Oct 42, sub: Supply 
Plan, 400 Supply Plan, EUCOM Engr files; Ltr, OCE, 
ETOUSA (C. Rodney Smith), to Engr, SOS ETOUSA, 
22 Sep 42, sub: Maint of Engr Equipment in the ETO, 
Supplies Misc 1 942; Ltr, OCE, SOS ETOUSA, to OCE. 



48 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



A critical shortage of spare parts be- 
came apparent early. Although in June 
the War Department had authorized a 
year's automatic supply of spare parts 
for overseas operations, OCE, WD, 
reported that spare parts stock for the 
following six months would not be ready 
for shipment until October and that a 
balanced twelve-month depot stock, 
then being assembled, would not be 
ready until the close of the year. Nor 
were the prospects brighter that units 
overseas would soon get a three- to six- 
month supply of critical spare parts. 
The situation became so serious in the 
Eastern Base Section that depots issued 
some items only upon presentation of 
the parts to be replaced. In September, 
OCE, SOS, formed a spare parts depot 
on the nucleus of an engineer base 
equipment company at Ashchurch, with 
subdepots at Egginton in Derbyshire 
and Huntingdon in Huntingdonshire. 
October saw some improvement, but 
stocks were far from balanced. 32 

The quality of equipment provided 
to the engineer .units was good, though 
some was unsuited for larger tasks. The 
earth auger and the medium tractor 
with angledozer proved too light for 
much of the work for which they were 
used, and they frequently broke down. 
The 1 1/2-ton dump truck was also 
inadequate and wore out much sooner 
than the larger and more rugged 2 



WD, 13 Jan 43, sub: Maint of Engr Equipment in 
ETO, 400, 402, EUCOM Engr files. 

M Ltr, AGO, WD, 1 1 Jun 42, sub: Automotive Parts 
Policy, Engr Cons, EUCOM Engr files; Ltr, OCE, 
ETOUSA (C. Rodney Smith), to Engr, SOS ETOUSA, 
22 Sep 42, sub: Maint of Engr Equipment in the ETO, 
Supplies Misc 1942; Interv, Col A. L. Hartfield, 19 
Sep 50; Ltr, Engr Sect, ETOUSA, to G-4, SOS 
ETOUSA, 8 Oct 42, sub: Initial GIV Periodic Rpt, 
319.1 GIV Monthly Rpt, 1942-43-44, USFET Engr 
files. 



1/2-ton truck. But with their heavy 
graders, bulldozers, paving machines, 
post-hole diggers, and other efficient 
machinery, American engineers could 
usually outperform British engineers, 
who generally had lighter equipment, 
although the British machines often 
excelled in muddy conditions. 33 

Intelligence 

In late 1942 engineer intelligence was 
still unprepared for the tasks looming 
ahead. Intelligence functions were re- 
lated to ROUNDUP, but Continental 
operations were a hope for the future 
rather than an imminent reality. To 
staff officers responsible for building 
up engineer forces in the United King- 
dom, intelligence and mapping ap- 
peared less urgent than construction. 
When the intelligence organization of 
OCE, SOS, became an independent 
division in midsummer 1942, its staff 
consisted of only a few officers and even 
fewer enlisted men. Lt. Col. Herbert 
Milwh, formerly with the 30th Engi- 
neer Topographic Battalion and an 
expert in mapping and photogram- 
metry, remained division chief through- 
out the war in Europe. Not until Decem- 
ber 1942 did sufficient personnel arrive 
in Britain to make possible more than 
extremely limited operations. 34 

In spite of the importance of map- 



M Memo, SOS, WD, and Ltr, CofEngrs, 17 Aug 42, 
sub: Recommended Changes in Engr Equipment, 
ETO 400.34, OCE C and R files; Rpt, USANI Base 
Command (Prov), Office of Base Engr, to CofEngrs, 
USANIBC, in Engr Tech Rpt No. 7, 600 NI Gen 
(Current), NIBS Engr files; Albrecht, "Engineer 
Aspects of Operation Bolero," p. 119. 

*• OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 5, Intelligence and To- 
pography (United Kingdom), 1946, pp. 1-10, Liaison 
Sect, Intel Div, ETOUSA Adm file 547; Intel Div, 
OCE, SOS ETOUSA, Status Rpts for Sep, Oct, Nov, 
and Dec 1942 and Jan 1943, EUCOM Engr files. 



THE ENGINEER MACHINE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM, 1942 



49 



ping as a branch of engineer intelligence, 
Americans in the European theater at 
first assumed little responsibility for it. 
In May 1942 the British and Ameri- 
cans concluded the Loper-Hotine Agree- 
ment to divide mapping responsibility 
throughout the world. The British a- 
greed to take care of most of Western 
Europe and the Middle East, leaving 
North and South America, the Far East, 
and the Pacific to the Americans. The 
Directorate of Military Survey of the 
British War Office provided Americans 
with maps, equipment, housing, and 
storage facilities. This British agency 
also aided in training a small but vital 
engineer model makers detachment, 
whose model beaches were to prove 
useful in planning amphibious opera- 
tions. 35 

The Loper-Hotine Agreement recog- 
nized that the British would require 
American help in compiling and repro- 
ducing maps for American forces and 
in providing photomaps for those parts 
of northwest Europe not covered by 
reliable large-scale maps. The agree- 
ment also specified that American topo- 
graphic units and staffs would support 
major American forces. Though Ameri- 
can topographical battalions arrived in 
Britain in the latter part of 1942 with- 
out adequate equipment, by the close 
of the year Colonel Milwit's units were 
producing maps in considerable quanti- 
ties and were building up a worthwhile 
map library. 36 



35 OCE, SOS ETOUSA, Topo Memo No. I, 15 Oct 
43, Topographic Experience in the Theaters; Intel 
Div, OCE, SOS ETOUSA, General Mission statement, 
4 Oct 44, sub: Model Makers Detachment, Model Mak- 
ers Detachment folder; Coll, Keith, and Rosenthal, 
The Corps of Engineers: Troops and Equipment ] pp. 445ff.l 

3e OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpl 5, Intelligence and To- 
pography, pp. 3—5 and app. 9; Ltr, Col Loper to 
Capt G. F. Hahas, Survey Liaison Office, HQ, WASC, 




COLONEL MlLWIT 



For a time, relations with the British 
were better than with the Army Air 
Forces. OCE, WD, had arranged with 
the Air Forces at Wright Field outside 
Dayton, Ohio, to train a B— 17 squad- 
ron to carry out photomapping in coop- 
eration with the engineers. After months 
of negotiating over the type of plane, 
the need for an escort, and the flying 
altitude, the scheme failed. Engineer 
mapmakers thus had to rely upon the 
slower, less accurate methods of the 
Royal Air Force. 37 



13 Jan 44, 061.01 Mapping, Intel Div, OCE, SOS; Ltr, 
Milwit, 14 Aug 53. 

37 Memo, Milwit for Conrad, G-2, AAF, ETOUSA, 
20 Dec 42, sub: Trimetrogen Topographic Mapping, 
and Ltr, Air Ministry (BR) to Milwit, S 2898, 1/A.D. 
Maps; both General 061, EUCOM Engr files. OCE 
ETOUSA Hist Rpt 5, Intelligence and Topography, 
pp. 15-19 and apps. 5, 10, 11, 12. 



50 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



Construction 

As the BOLERO plans developed, it 
became apparent that without consider- 
able assistance the British would not be 
able to house the American force sched- 
uled to arrive in the United Kingdom. 
General Davison pointed out in June of 
1942 that the difference between what 
the Americans would need and what 
the British could provide in new and 
existing facilities would constitute the 
engineer construction program. Deter- 
mining American needs was difficult 
because of the uncertainty in 1942 as 
to how many American troops would 
come, when they would come, and how 
they would be used in the invasion. The 
orderly development of the quartering 
and construction programs — at first in 
separate divisions but in mid-October 
combined — suffered because of these 
uncertainties. 

Until enough American "static force" 
engineers arrived, the British handled 
everything connected with quartering. 
British Army and Air Force officers met 
U.S. Army units as they arrived, directed 
them to assigned areas, and arranged 
for various services, including utilities, 
medical facilities, and the Navy- Army- 
Air Force Institution (NAAFI, the Brit- 
ish equivalent of the post exchange). 
In at least one instance a British advance 
party remained with the U.S. troops to 
aid in maintaining equipment and draw- 
ing supplies, to make the Americans 
familiar with British military procedure, 
and to provide laundry, shoe repair, 
and tailoring services. In the early sum- 
mer of 1942, when the SOS was too 



38 Memo, Davison for Lee, 28 Jun 42, 400 General 
(May-Oct 42), EUCOM Engr files; OCE ETOUSA 
Hist Rpt 8, Quartering (United Kingdom), 1946, pp. 
5-6, Liaison Sect, Intel Div, ETOUSA Adm file 547. 



new and undermanned to handle these 
matters, such British assistance was 
vital. 39 

Americans gradually took over many 
of these functions, though the British 
role remained great. Aviation engineer 
battalions which had to construct sites 
on grain fields or pastureland without 
facilities (mostly in Eastern Base Sec- 
tion) put up tents for those who came 
next. In Southern and Western Base 
Sections, the British could usually turn 
over existing facilities, at least for the 
early arrivals. To meet U.S. Army re- 
quirements, however, these facilities 
often had to be altered or enlarged by 
either the British or the Engineer Con- 
struction Division. If no housing existed, 
one or the other had to put up new 
structures. 40 

The Engineer Construction Division, 
a subsidiary of the chief engineer's 
office at Cheltenham, was set up in mid- 
June with two officers and two enlisted 
men headed by Col. Frank M. Albrecht. 
As more officers arrived in the ETO 
the organization grew, and in October 
it absorbed the Quartering Division. 
Before TORCH, tasks consisted mainly 
of planning and liaison. In designing 
and constructing buildings the British 
predominated because they ultimately 
were to own all installations. In some 
cases, especially in airfield construction, 
Americans attempted to lower British 
specifications in the interest of speed 
and economy, but, in general, the Brit- 
ish held to their point of view. 



:w OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 8, Quartering, pp. 13- 
17. 

w Ltr, Henderson to Air Ministry, 8 Aug 42, sub: 
Advance Parties for Engr Bn (Avn) and Ltr, Maj T. F. 
Bengston, XO, C&T Div, to Base Sect Engr, 27 Aug 
42, sub: Transmittal of Orders to Arriving Organiza- 
tions; both in 321 Engrs, EUCOM Engr files. 



THE ENGINEER MACHINE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM, 1942 



51 



General Lee's policy of centralized 
control and decentralized operations 
governed administrative procedures in 
building facilities of all types. Engineer 
officers of the "static force" had author- 
ity to approve or disapprove construc- 
tion projects in accordance with esti- 
mated costs. Unit utility offices could 
approve maintenance and utility pro- 
jects originating within such units as 
ground force battalions if the projects 
cost less than $825, which at World War 
II exchange rates amounted to £100. 
American district engineers could auth- 
orize projects involving less than 
$20,600, while base section engineers 
could approve new construction cost- 
ing under $164,800. For projects above 
$164,800 the base section engineers had 
to secure the approval of the chief 
engineer, SOS, ETOUSA. 

Since all installations were ultimately 
to be turned over to the British, area, 
district, or base section engineers had 
to obtain approval for each project 
from their opposites in the local British 
military hierarchy. The British were 
reluctant to delegate the authority to 
approve even minor construction, and 
some projects costing as little as $410 
had to go to the War Office for approval. 

General Lee constantly pressed the 
War Office to modify the British sys- 
tem, arguing that new construction 
costing less than $164,800 could and 
should be disposed of at a much lower 
level than the War Office. Not until well 
into the fall of 1942 did the War Office 
acquiesce. Thereafter, British comman- 
ders had the same approval powers as 
American base section, district, and area 
commanders. 41 



41 Memo, Albrecht for Moore, I Oct 42, 600-A- 
Con. EUCOM Engr files: Jnl entry 1430, 14 Oct 42, 



Under the new arrangement, if a 
camp, depot, or hospital was to cost 
more than $164,800 the chief engineer 
asked the British War Office to recom- 
mend suitable sites, and the base sec- 
tion engineer then selected a site board. 
For camp and hospital sites, such boards 
included an engineer, a medical officer, 
and representatives of each unit, arm, 
or service concerned. The board in- 
spected the proposed sites and reported 
their selection to the chief engineer. 
Although only the chief engineer or his 
representative had authority to request 
sites or facilities from the British, OCE 
made no objection to informal agree- 
ments, subject to the chief engineer's 
approval, entered into by other arms 
and services. 42 

Differences between American and 
British methods, organization, and no- 
menclature posed seemingly endless 
problems. A requisition was an "indent," 
a monkey wrench was a "spanner"; nails 
were designated by length rather than 
weight, rope by circumference rather 
than diameter. Large American trucks 
had difficulty traversing the narrow, 
sharply curved British roads. Ameri- 
can electrical equipment would not 



C&Q Div, OCE, SOS, Oct-Dec 42; Ltr, Albrecht to 
Base Sect Engr, EBS, 30 Oct 42, sub: Requests for 
Construction Work, 337 (Min of Mtgs 1943), USFET 
Engr Serv files; SOS ETOUSA Cir 12, 17 Aug 42, sub: 
Instructions Concerning Base Sections; MS, Maj Gen 
A.G.B. Smyser, Engineer Eighth Air Force History. 
For the general construction story, see OCE ETOUSA 
Hist Rpt 6, Air Force Construction (United Kingdom), 
1946, Liaison Sect, Intel Div, ETOUSA Adm file 547, 
and OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 7, Field and Service Force 
Construction. These two reports are general sources 
for the remainder of this section. 

42 Ltr, Larkin to CG, AA Comd, ETOUSA, 30 Jul 
42, sub: Construction, Utilities Work, and Use of 
Facilities, 600- N- General, EUCOM Engr files. These 
instructions were repeated almost verbatim in the sub- 
sequent Ltr, Moore to CG, V Corps, 1 Dec 42, same 
sub, 600 General, 1-31 Dec 42, EUCOM Engr files. 



52 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



operate on British current; the USAAF 
required more hardstandings, quarters, 
and facilities than RAF airdromes pro- 
vided; and American commanders found 
British special facilities for noncoms 
hard to reconcile with U.S. Army prac- 
tices. 43 

A problem stemmed from the fact 
that the Air Ministry was a separate arm 
of the British War Office. The engi- 
neers wanted to separate the USAAF 
from construction channels — a policy 
that found little favor with either the 
Air Forces or the British Air Ministry. 
With ETOUSA support General Lee 
finally succeeded in his efforts to coor- 
dinate all U.S. construction under one 
office, gaining by fall both Air Forces 
and British Air Ministry acquiescence. 
The Air Forces stated requirements; 
the engineers did the construction. The 
Air Ministry agreed not only to deal 
directly with the engineers but to grant 
its subordinate commands powers of 
approval paralleling those of the Ameri- 
can static force. 44 

Another general working agreement 
was that American engineer units would 
undertake the larger construction pro- 
jects to make better use of their heavy 
equipment. ETOUSA also agreed that 
U.S. Army camps would remain as 
small as possible so that local municipal 
utility systems could serve them. The 



British and Americans prepared stan- 
dard layouts for camps for 600, 750, 
1,000, and 1,250 men and hospitals for 
750 and 1,000 beds. The need for con- 
serving shipping space, the scarcity of 
wood, and the necessity for speed in 
construction all dictated the choice of 
16-foot-wide Nissen huts for housing 
and 35-foot-wide Iris huts for storage 
and shop space. The British agreed to 
manufacture these units from billet 
steel imported from the United States. 
The huts provided good semiperma- 
nent quarters that could be erected eas- 
ily and quickly. 45 

As the machinery for construction 
and quartering evolved, the Engineer 
Construction Division and engineer 
construction units turned their ener- 
gies toward camps and depots in the 
Southern Base Section and air installa- 
tions in the Eastern Base Section. In 
March 1942 the British indicated that 
they would need help in providing 
fields for American Air Forces; Gen- 
eral Davison immediately cabled Wash- 
ington for ten aviation engineer battal- 
ions and soon afterwards raised the 
number to twenty. The first of these 
battalions arrived in June. Late in July 
Eighth Air Force set its requirements 
at 98 airdromes, of which the British 
already had built 52; they would build 
29 more and the U.S. aviation engineers 



43 MS, Lt Gen J.C.H. Lee, Invasion Prelude— The 
SOS in Britain, 10 Apr 44; Hist 332d Engr GS Rgt, 1 
Jan-3I Dec 44, Supply Sect; Memo, 1st Lt E. W. 
McCall for Chf, Reqts Br, sub: Trip Rpt, 319.1 Rpts, 
EUCOM Engr Sect; Moore, Fined Report, p. 238. 

44 Ltr, Larkin to CG, AAF, 10 Aug 42, sub: Con- 
struction and Utility Work w/lst Ind, 25 Aug 42, and 
Memo, Albrecht for Moore, 10 Oct 42; both in 600- 
A-Gen, EUCOM Engr files. Ltr, Albrecht to Wooten, 
18 Sep 42, sub: Command Approval of Construction 
Projects, 600 Gen 43, EUCOM Engr files. 



45 Engr 817, SU-RE, Jun 42-5 Jul 45, Air Univ, 
Maxwell Field, Ala; OCE ETOUSA Cir 6, 16 Jul 42, 
extracted from OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 7, Field and 
Service Force Construction, pp. 58-59. This direc- 
tive provided the working basis for U.S. and British 
agencies concerned with construction. The British 
counterpart was reproduced in OCE ETOUSA Cir 
10, 27 Jul 42; Incl 3, Scales of Accommodations, 1st 
Ind, Albrecht to Col G. A. Lincoln, Chf, Planning Con- 
trol Br, G— 4, 10 Dec 42, sub: Construction Program; 
OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 7, Field and Service Force 
Construction, app. 7. 



THE ENGINEER MACHINE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM, 1942 



53 




Men of the 829th Engineer Aviation Battalion Erect Nissen Hutting 



17. By 1 September the U.S. Figure had 
risen unofficially to 38. 46 

Although the construction program 
was neither formally approved nor 
coordinated, by 1 September unofficial 
figures listed new camps for 77,346 
men, 53 hospitals, and 16 convertible 
camps, in addition to the 38 new air- 
dromes. SOS building operations were 
already well under way. Eight general 



4H Ltr, Gen Carl Spaatz, CG, 8th AF, 8 AF 600.1 to 
CG, ETOUSA, Jul 42, sub: Eighth Air Force Air- 
drome Construction Program; Ltr, Gen Larkin to 
CofEngrs, Washington, D.C., 30 Jul 42, sub: Engi- 
neer Supplies, Equipment, Personnel, and Units, 381 
War Plans <Jun 42-Jul 43), EUCOM Engr Sect; 
Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies, Volume I, 
pp. 38, 95, 113; MS, Notes on Staff and Command 
Conference, 17 May 43, p. 6, Engr Serv in the ETO, 
Hist Br Liaison Sect- 



service regiments had arrived and were 
employed on thirty-one projects. Five 
of these regiments were in Southern 
Base Section, one building railroad 
spurs and four building shelters. By 
contrast, little had been done in West- 
ern Base Section. Although three gen- 
eral service regiments arrived there in 
August and began shelter construc- 
tion, in September all were diverted to 
TORCH. 47 In Eastern Base Section the 
809th Engineer Aviation Battalion, the 
first SOS engineer unit to do construc- 



47 Station List, Engr Units, 9 Sep 42, Disposition 
Lists; Engr Units and files, and OCE, SOS, Sitrep, 1 
Aug 42; OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 7, Field and Service 
Force Construction, p. 71; His Red of Engr Serv, 
WBS, 20 Jul 42-15 Mar 44; OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 
4, Troops, app. 22, sheet 1. 



54 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 




Paving Train at an American Bomber Field in England 



tion in England, began work at Glatton 
Airdrome on 5 July. By September six- 
teen aviation battalions were at work in 
that area, although only six had been 
at their job sites more than a few days. 48 
The British heavy bomber airdrome 
was accepted as the standard for each 
field to be constructed by the Ameri- 
cans, with few modifications and a rela- 
tively tight clamp on local adjustments. 
Three runways, each 150 feet wide, 
were set in a generally triangular form 
with intersecting legs. The main run- 
way was 6,000 feet long, the other two 
4,200 feet each. A fifty-foot perimeter 



48 Status Rpts, Col Moore to CG, ETOUSA, 31 Oct 
42 (dated 8 Nov 42) and 30 Nov 42 (dated 6 Dec 42), 
both 319.1 Rpts, OCE Rpts to CG, EUCOM Engr 
files. 



track encircling the runways connected 
some fifty hard standings. In addition, 
at each field a 2,500-man "village" had 
to be built complete with utilities such 
as sewage — no small problem in the flat 
lands of East Anglia. At Matching Air- 
drome buildings included 214 Nissen 
huts (16 by 36 feet) arranged in seven 
living sites, with attendant washhouses 
and latrines. The technical site adjacent 
to the runways included some forty-odd 
buildings for administration, operations, 
and maintenance. Other structures in- 
cluded hospitals, recreation halls, and 
messes. Away from these areas was a 
"danger site," where a score of build- 
ings housed bombs, fuses, and other 
ordnance. 

Agreement on layouts and construc- 
tion standards was a minor issue com- 



THE ENGINEER MACHINE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM, 1942 



55 



pared to problems in the actual work. 
Though the Air Ministry provided air- 
field and village construction plans and 
arranged for locally supplied materials, 
British equipment was often too light 
and too little. Other considerations 
plagued the Americans — a lack of expe- 
rienced construction workers, strange 
British nomenclature and methods, 
rains beginning in mid-October that 
turned fields into bogs and company 
areas into quagmires, and finally the 
disruptions of TORCH. Because of de- 
lays in the arrival of the heavy organiza- 
tional equipment, aviation battalions 
began clearing land with hand tools; 
one unit had only a small-scale map to 
locate and chart the runways it was to 
construct. All units had to train men 
on the job. Even those with some con- 
struction training were at a loss in the 
United Kingdom where virtually no 
construction was of wood — every piece 
came under the control of a separate 
British Timber Control Board. One 
unit traded food for enough lumber to 
build concrete pouring forms. The cor- 
rugated curved steel Nissen, Iris, and 
Romney huts were enclosed at the ends 
with masonry, and a number of struc- 
tures on airdromes were entirely of 
brick. Engineer units had to train large 
numbers of masons, using men experi- 
enced in the trade as teachers. 49 
Even when heavy equipment arrived 



9 Unit histories of sixteen engineer aviation battal- 
ions in the United Kingdom before December 1942, 
especially those of the 809th, the 817th, the 818th, 
and the 826th and histories of the 833d and 834th; 
Memo, Lt Col H. H. Reed, Actg Chf, Supply Div, SOS, 
for XO, Engr Serv, 4 Sep 42, sub: Revision of Supply 
Plan, ETO; Unit Hist, 332d Engr GS Rgt, 1 Jan 44-31 
Oct 44, Supply Sect; Ltr, Albrecht to Base Engr, EBS, 
20 Oct 42; Memo, Moore for Reybold, 30 Nov 42, 
sub: Engr Problems in ETO; Memo, Moore for Lee 
12 Nov 42. 



more regularly in late 1942, aviation 
engineer battalions had few men famil- 
iar with it. Operators needed intensive 
training. One method divided the labor 
into specialized tasks: one company 
handled the runway preparation and 
paving; another roads and taxiways; 
and the third the huts, drainage sys- 
tems, and ancillary tasks. Methods and 
schedules varied from battalion to battal- 
ion, but nearly all worked double shifts 
to take advantage of the long summer 
days. As daylight hours shortened in 
the fall, units worked under lights; two, 
and sometimes three, shifts kept the 
vital heavy equipment running day and 
night. 

Engineer aviation units were armed 
and organized to defend their airfields 
should the need arise. In the early days 
men marched to work with their rifles, 
stacking them at the job site. Alerts and 
blackouts punctuated the nighttime 
work as German bombers passed over 
on their way to metropolitan areas, but 
airdrome construction proceeded with 
little interference. Some attempt was 
made to disguise the characteristic out- 
line of runways with a wood chip cover- 
ing and that of buildings with paint, 
but camouflage did not become an 
important consideration. 

In the end, the progress demanded 
of the engineer aviation battalions in 
the first year of construction work in 
England proved beyond those partially 
trained, underequipped, and often un- 
dermanned units. Airfields that OCE, 
SOS, originally estimated would take 
one battalion six months to build took 
a year or more. 50 



50 Moore, Final Report, pp. 259-61; Work Like Hell, 
Play Like Hell, p. 11, Engr 825-Hi, Apr 42-Aug45; 
Engr 833- Hi, 10 Aug 42-25 Sep 45, Air Univ. 



56 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



The decision to invade North Africa 
dealt a blow to BOLERO construction 
from which it did not recover until well 
into the spring of 1943. In September, 
just when the arrival of more engineer 
construction units made possible an 
increase in building activity, many of 
the engineer units were alerted for 
TORCH; others had to support the of- 
fensive, mainly in depot operations, 
because TORCH called for a greatly 
increased volume of supplies from the 
United Kingdom. 51 

The diversion of supplies and troops 
for North Africa dictated new means 
for tapping the labor supply. Early in 
October SOS, ETOUSA, provided for 
labor pools in each of the base sections, 
with a general service regiment or equiv- 
alent serving as a nucleus on which to 
form organizations for freight handling 
and various other tasks at depots and 
similar installations. Aviation engineers 
also performed these duties. On 1 Octo- 
ber Colonel Adams of the Operations 
and Training Division, OCE, SOS, re- 
ported that three aviation battalions had 
just arrived but had only 20 percent of 
their heavy construction equipment. 
General Littlejohn, General Lee's de- 
puty, pointed to this as a justification 
for adding these units to the labor 
pools, emphasizing that 5,000 SOS engi- 
neers had already been diverted from 

52 

construction. 



51 Ltr, Albrecht, 4 Nov 53; OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 
7, Field and Service Force Construction, p. 73; Memo, 
Moore for Brig Gen E. S. Hughes, 17 Nov 42, BC 1, 
Bolero Combined Committee. 

52 Ltr, SOS ETOUSA to Chfs of Supply Services, 
Base Sect COs, and Depot COs, 9 Oct 42, sub: Labor 
Pools for Depot Opns, 319.1 Rpts (Labor), Sep-Nov 
42, EUCOM Engr files; Ltr, OCE, SOS ETOUSA, 
Col Donald B. Adams, Chf, O&T Div, to Col E. E. 
Barnes, London OCE Rep, 1 Oct 42, sub: Rpt on 
Engr Bns (Avn) and Airport Cons, 322.030; Ltr, SOS 
ETOUSA, Littlejohn, to CG, Eighth Air Force, 4 Oct 



In November the British, who were 
scraping the bottom of their own con- 
struction labor barrel, removed 2,843 
pioneer troops from depot work. Colo- 
nel Albrecht of the Construction Divi- 
sion, OCE, SOS, argued to no avail that 
it was ridiculous to transfer unskilled 
pioneer labor to construction if this 
forced more skilled American units to 
perform unskilled work. At the end of 
November, a peak of 4,000 SOS, 1,160 
aviation, and 1,100 ground forces engi- 
neers were in labor pools. Large num- 
bers continued at depot work through 
March 1943. In spite of repeated 
requests from the chief engineer, 
ETOUSA, for more civilian aid, the 
British could do little. And, with apolo- 
gies, Colonel Moore had to explain to 
the Eighth Air Force that the success of 
TORCH depended upon keeping avia- 
tion engineers on unskilled depot 
work. 53 

General Lee recognized that return- 
ing engineers to construction or build- 
up tasks should have high priority, with 
aviation engineers heading the list, as 
soon as the TORCH emergency passed. 
In the meantime, as the labor pool sys- 
tem functioned, engineers had to do the 
work of other services. They carried 
on the entire operations of many ord- 



42, sub: Use of Avn Bns; both in 321 Avn Units, 
EUCOM Engr files. Ltr, SOS ETOUSA to CG, ETO- 
USA, 6 Oct 42, sub: SOS Troop and Labor Situation, 
Bolero SOS Overall Plan. 

5S Ltr, SOS ETOUSA to CG, ETOUSA, 6 Oct 42, 
sub: SOS Troop and Labor Situation; Memo, Albrecht 
for Chf Engr, 1 Nov 42, and Memo, Cons Div forCE, 
14 Nov 42; both in 23 1 .4 Custodian (Labor), EUCOM 
Engr files. OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 4, Troops, app. 2, 
sheets 4-8; Memo, OCE ETOUSA for G-4, SOS 
ETOUSA, 24 Oct 42, sub: SOS Troops and Labor 
Situation, 321 Aviation Units, EUCOM Engr files; Ltr, 
HQ, VIII Bomber Command, to CG, Eighth Air 
Force, sub: Proposed Status List, w/4th Ind, OCE, 
SOS, to CG, Eighth Air Force, 10 Oct 42. 



THE ENGINEER MACHINE IN THE UNITED KINGDOM, 1942 



57 




Hospital Construction Employing Prefabricated Concrete RoofTrusses 



nance depots, and they supplied a large 
part of the personnel for quartermas- 
ter depots. The labor pool system origi- 
nally established for the TORCH emer- 
gency aided materially in getting the 
North African invasion on its way in 
time. But the system seemed to have 
expanded beyond reason. With only 
105,000 troops in the entire theater, 
Colonel Moore could not understand 
why it was necessary to have 15,500 
men (not all of them engineers) carry- 
ing on supply functions. 4 

In the spring of 1943, SOS abolished 



54 Ltr, Lee to CG, Eighth Air Force, 12 Nov 42, sub: 
EngT Avn Bns, and 1st Ind, Eighth Air Force to CG, 
SOS, 4 Jan 43; both in 320.2 General, EUCOM Engr 
files. Memo, Moore for Reybold, 30 Nov 42, sub: Engr 
Problems in the ETO. 



the labor pool system and engineer 
units returned to their normal jobs. 
Although necessary, labor pools had 
markedly affected ETO construction 
progress. ROUNDUP plans had to be 
thrust aside, and work on airfields, 
depots, troop accommodations, and 
hospitals was thrown off schedule. Some 
construction had continued, but on a 
greatly reduced scale. Morale dropped 
and disciplinary problems increased, 
because men were doing jobs with which 
they were not familiar and for which 
they had no training. Moreover, many 
units had to be divided into small groups, 
with a resulting loss of unit integrity 
and pride. 55 



56 Memo, OCE, SOS ETOUSA, for Col W. G. Wea- 
ver, Actg CofS, SOS, ETOUSA, 17 Dec 42, sub: 



58 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



The British continued to execute 
their part of BOLERO construction, 
largely by contract, but the future of 
the American program hung in the 
balance. Many doubted that construc- 
tion on the scale of the long-range 
BOLERO Plan would ever be needed. 
The general agreement was that addi- 
tional camp construction would not be 
necessary during the winter, but depot 
and airfield programs were not substan- 
tially decreased. The engineers could 
not cope with this construction program 
so they sought a clear statement of 
responsibilities. Lacking such a state- 



Attachment of Engr Troops to Other Services, 321 
Engrs, EUCOM Engr files; Ltr, Office of the Engr, 
Southern Base Sect, to Chf Engr, ETOUSA, 20 Oct 
42, sub: Progress on Construction; Memo, Col R. B. 
Lord for Chf Engr, 24 Jan 43, 231.4 Custodian 
(Labor), EUCOM Engr files. 



ment, they used General Somervell's 
order of 17 November, which sharply 
limited materials and supplies to the 
new, short-term 427,000-man troop 
basis. But this order did not look beyond 
the spring of 1943 and placed the Amer- 
icans in the awkward position of seem- 
ing to block preparations in the United 
Kingdom for a cross-Channel attack. 
The ETOUSA publication in mid- 
January 1943 of a modified construc- 
tion program left this situation basically 
unchanged. The unqualified revival of 
the buildup had to await agreement on 
a strategic program for 1943— 44. 56 



5B Ltr, Albrecht, 4 Nov 53; Ltr, Moore to Base Sect 
Engrs, 13 Jan 43, sub: Modifying Plan for BOLERO 
Construction Program w/related papers, 600 Gen, 1 
Jun 43-31 Aug 43, and 600-A-Gen; Memo, Moore 
for Reybold, 30 Nov 42, sub: Engr Problems in ETO, 
w/related papers; Ltr, Lee to Somervell, 17 Nov 42. 



CHAPTER IV 



The Engineers in the Invasion of 

North Africa 



While the BOLERO program in the 
United Kingdom took second place, 
Allied planners turned their attention 
to an assault on the periphery of Ger- 
man power and began detailed consid- 
eration of landings in North Africa. 
The hurried planning for TORCH of- 
fered an object lesson in disorderly 
preparation and brilliant improvisation. 
Though the timetable called for land- 
ings before the end of the year, the 
force envisaged did not have an overall 
command until the Combined Chiefs 
of Staff named General Eisenhower 
Commander in Chief, Allied Expedi- 
tionary Force, on 13 August 1942. The 
Allied Force Headquarters (AFHQ) 
that Eisenhower headed came into exis- 
tence officially only on 12 September 
but was already a closely integrated 
organization. General Sir Kenneth A. N. 
Anderson commanded the British 
ground forces and Admiral Sir Andrew 
B. Cunningham the naval forces. The 
various general and special staff sec- 
tions were Allied organizations, with 
American and British officers inter- 
spersed throughout in various positions 
of command and subordination. Maj. 
Gen. Humfrey Gale (British) became 
the chief administrative officer at AF- 
HQ. Of three task forces, Western Task 



Force (WTF), which was to sail directly 
from the United States to Casablanca, 
was under Maj. Gen. George S. Patton, 
Jr. Center Task Force (CTF), with the 
primary mission of capturing the port 
of Oran, was under Maj. Gen. Lloyd R. 
Fredendall. Eastern Task Force (ETF), 
with responsibility for seizing Algiers 
and the Blida and Maison Blanche 
Airfields, was largely British but re- 
tained an American commander, Maj. 
Gen. Charles W. Ryder, to confuse the 
French defenders of North Africa as to 
the nationality of the invading force. 1 

Engineer Plans and Preparations 

The Engineer Section of AFHQ came 
into being when Col. Frank O. Bow- 
man arrived in London toward the end 
of August 1942. This small section 
worked closely with the Engineer Sec- 
tion of Center Task Force, headed by 
Col. Mark M. Boatner, Jr., of the 591st 
Engineer Boat Regiment, in preparing 
plans for the CTF landing at Oran. 
AFHQ's G— 4 section was responsible 



1 Leighton and Coakley, Global Logistics and Strategy, 
1940-43, p. 455; George F. Howe, Northwest Africa: 
Seizing the Initiative in the West, United SLal.es Army in 
World War II (Washington, 1957), pp. 15, 32-35. 



60 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS; THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



for planning engineer supply, and un- 
der G— 4 were SOS groups attached to 
the two U.S. task forces. The Center 
Task Force (II Corps), SOS, assembled 
in England under Brig. Gen. Thomas 
B. Larkin, former ETOUSA chief en- 
gineer. After the landings, Larkin's 
organization was to become the Medi- 
terranean Base Section. 

Western Task Force planning took 
place in the United States. Its Engineer 
Section, headed by Col. John F. Con- 
klin, developed along the lines of an 
augmented corps-level engineer orga- 
nization. The section received valuable 
assistance from OCE (which was just 
one block away), particularly the Sup- 
ply Division, and from the Army Map 
Service. 2 

Early in the fall the first elements of 
the future Atlantic Base Section (initially 
designated SOS Task Force A) assem- 
bled in the United States under Brig. 
Gen. Arthur R. Wilson as the SOS for 
the Western Task Force. The Engineer 
Section, SOS, WTF, under Col. Francis 
H. Oxx, obtained considerable aid from 
the Plans and Distribution Division, 
OCE, WD, as well as from engineers of 
WTF themselves. OCE, WD, was respon- 
sible for engineer supply for the first 
four WTF convoys, the engineer alloca- 
tion being 2,000 tons per convoy. The 
engineers planned that requisitions 
would be submitted first to the New 
York Port of Embarkation (NYPOE); 
in case of losses at sea, NYPOE would 
determine priority of replacement and 
shipment. 3 

The fact that Allied forces were to 
undertake the landings complicated 



2 Ltr, Col John A. Chambers to EHD, 5 Apr 56. 
3 History of Atlantic Base Section to June I, 1943 
vol. I, p. 5, in CMH. 



supply planning for TORCH in the Unit- 
ed Kingdom. Most of the engineer Class 
IV items (heavy construction equipment) 
would come from the British, while the 
remainder of Class IV and all Class II 
and V items would come from American 
sources. A joint stockpile established in 
England helped to avoid confusion and 
duplication. British elements would han- 
dle logistics for WTF, while SOS, 
ETOUSA, would supply the CTF and 
the American components of the ETF. 
After late December (about D plus 40) 
supplies for all American elements of 
TORCH were to come directly from the 
United States. Planners expected to 
build up supplies in North Africa to a 
14-day level by D plus 30, a 30-day level 
by D plus 60, and a 45-day level by D 
plus 90. Classes II, IV, and V items 
were to be resupplied automatically for 
the first two months because the task 
forces could not be expected to estab- 
lish adequate inventory control and req- 
uisition procedures until base sections 
became operational. Estimates by the 
chiefs of the technical services at ASF, 
WD, were to form the basis for the auto- 
matic resupply program, but the plan 
also permitted limited requisitioning 
from the NYPOE. 

From the engineers' point of view, 
one of the most disturbing events dur- 
ing the planning was a high-level deci- 
sion to cut authorized vehicle alloca- 
tions. Cutting the number of vehicles 
by 50 percent freed the drivers and 
crews for duties in fighting formations. 
The cut applied not only to the engi- 
neers' trucks but also to special engineer 
vehicles of all types. Maj. Gen. Mark 
W. Clark, deputy commander in chief 
for Torch, believed the decision would 
not seriously affect the WTF, whose pri- 
mary mission was to establish and de- 



THE ENGINEERS IN THE INVASION OF NORTH AFRICA 



61 



fend a line of communications, but the 
50 percent cut meant a reduction of 
10,000 vehicles for Center Task Force 
alone. Afterwards, Brig. Gen. Donald 
A. Davison, Colonel Bowman's succes- 
sor as AFHQ engineer, observed that 
engineers without vehicles became mere- 
ly underarmed and improperly trained 
infantry, unable to perform their tech- 
nical missions. 4 

Supply plans had to be made before 
information concerning important 
phases of the invasion was available. 
Arriving at a fixed troop basis was 
fundamental, but the Allies could not 
come to an agreement on one until 
planning was well along. Even after a 
figure for the total invasion force was 
at hand the allocations among service, 
ground, and air forces changed contin- 
ually. Furthermore, no outline plan of 
attack became available until long after 
supply preparations were under way. 

Requirements for special engineer 
equipment included such diverse items 
as bulldozers, tractors with detachable 
angledozers, amphibious tractors, mines 
and mine detectors, beach and airfield 
landing mats, camouflage equipment 
and supplies, lighting plants, well-dig- 
ging machinery, water trucks, water 
cans (by the thousands), hand carts, 
portable air compressors, fumigation 
vaults, asphalt, magnifying glasses, un- 
bleached cotton sheeting, cotton sack, 
cord, rope, insect repellent, cable cut- 
ters, and grappling hooks. As it turned 
out, the engineers managed to satisfy 
most of their supply demands except 
for vehicles. On 17 October engineer 
units of CTF reported that they had 



4 Memo, D. A. Davison, 3 Jan 43, sub: Lessons of 
Opn Torch (hereafter cited as Davison Memo), 381 
War Plans Qun 42-Jul 43), 300.162 AFHQ Engr Sect. 



secured 80 percent of their supply 
requirements, and on 22 October the 
1st Engineer Amphibian Brigade re- 
ported 99 percent of its engineer equip- 
ment on hand. However, many of the 
missing items were important ones. 

The engineers of both task forces 
understood in general, but not in detail, 
what clearing obstacles from the beach- 
es would involve. They were, for exam- 
ple, unable to obtain sea-level, offshore 
photographs of the Barbary coastline. 5 
British photo reconnaissance of some 
of the beaches proved helpful, and 
plans were adjusted after submarines 
went in close for a final investigation. 

The engineers knew that the rainy 
season would begin about the time of 
D-day and that mud would limit the 
use of roads and airfields. They also 
knew there were few rivers to cross, so 
they would need little bridging equip- 
ment. However, they would need much 
machinery to maintain and repair roads, 
airfields, and railroads. The meager 
natural resources of North Africa would 
not aid construction, and the engineers 
would have to maintain water supply, 
sewage, gas, electricity, and transit sys- 
tems. 

Requirements for certain items of 
supply had to be studied in collabora- 
tion with other services. The, Engineer 
Section, SOS, WTF, worked with the 
Transportation Section in requisition- 
ing railway equipment and petroleum 
pipeline and negotiated the procure- 
ment of the pipeline. Many unknowns 
remained. The engineers had to esti- 



r 'Samuel Eliot Morison, "History of the United States 
Naval Operations in World War II," vol. II, Operations 
in North African Waters (Boston: Little, Brown and 
Company, 1950), p. 26. 

6 AFHQ (U.S.) Engr Sea (Sept- Oct 42); Ltr, Brig 
Gen W. A. Carter to EHD, 8 Feb 56. 



62 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



mate the amount of pipe that would be 
needed to transport petroleum prod- 
ucts to storage tanks in cities and at 
airfields in North Africa. They had to 
consider, among other things, the prob- 
able amount of petroleum that would 
have to be moved by rail or truck as 
well as the probable storage facilities, 
and their estimate had to be based on 
intelligent guesswork rather than on 
specific knowledge. 7 

The American high command had 
barely begun to appreciate the practica- 
bility and utility of a military pipeline 
system when the United States became 
involved in the war. 8 Well before TORCH 
began, the Army had placed orders 
with American industry for equipment 
needed to build military pipelines. Mili- 
tary requirements called for materials 
that could be easily transported and 
readily erected in the field, and during 
the year of peace the petroleum indus- 
try had produced such equipment. From 
the military standpoint, the important 
development was the "victaulic" coup- 
ling, named for one of the fabricators, 
the Victaulic Company of America. 
This coupling consisted of a gas- resis- 
tant gasket of synthetic rubber and a 
metal clamp. The gasket fit into grooves 
cut around the ends of two lengths of 
piping and was held in place by the 
clamp, a two-piece steel collar bolted 
tight to hold the gasket. This type of 
coupling could be fitted more quickly 
and was less rigid than either threaded 
or welded joints. The steel welded-seam 



pipe came in twenty-foot lengths. Early 
in the war this standard length was four 
inches in inside diameter and weighed 
168 pounds. American industry later 
developed a four-inch pipe — "invasion 
tubing" — which weighed only sixty- 
eight pounds per length. 

The engineers adapted other items 
of military pipeline equipment from the 
most portable items in commercial oil 
fields — pumps, engines, ship discharge 
hoses, fittings, and storage tanks. The 
Army used six sizes (ranging from 100- 
barrel to 10,000-barrel capacity) of 
bolted steel tanks for semiportable stor- 
age. These tanks, consisting of shaped 
steel plates fitted together with bolts, 
could be shipped "knocked down" as 
sets — complete with valves and fittings — 
for onsite assembly. 9 

Maps were essential to the success of 
the North Africa invasion. The British 
Geographical Section, General Staff, 
supplied most of the maps CTF and 
ETF used. The Intelligence Division, 
OCE, SOS, ETOUSA, helped distrib- 
ute the maps — some 500,000 items 
weighing approximately forty tons. 
Twenty tons were sorted, wrapped, and 
bundled in coded rolls for distribution 
aboard ships. Some 400,000 additional 
photomaps required careful handling 
and packing. 10 



7 History of Atlantic Base Section to June 1, 1943, 
vol. II, ch. XIV, p. 4. 

8 Ltr, C. W. Karstens to Maj Gen A. C. Smith, 29 Jan 
54, with attached comments signed by Karstens; see 
Coll, Keith, and Ros enthal. The Corps of Engineers: 
Troops and Equipment, yp. 418ff. 



'"'Many factors could vary the amount of gasoline 
actually pumped through a pipeline; six-inch pipe had 
a rated capacity of 400 gallons a minute, or 480,000 
gallons in a normal (20-hour) operating day. Engi- 
neer School Special Text (ST-5-350- 1), Military 
Pipeline Systems (Fort Belvoir, Va., 1950), pp. 23, 32, 
198. 

"'Ltr, Col Martin Hotine, Geographical Sect, Gen- 
eral Staff, to Col Herbert Milwit, 27 Nov 42, 319 Chf 
Engr, EUCOM Engr files; Status Rpt, 4 Nov 42, Intel 
Div, 319.1 Rpts, EUCOM Engr files; Coll, Keith, and 
Rose nthal, The Cor ps of Engineers: Troops and Equip- 
ment. ^- 445 r ?5T1 0CE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 5, Intelli- 
gence and Topography, pp. 31—32. 



THE ENGINEERS IN THE INVASION OF NORTH AFRICA 



63 



The engineers in WTF did not have 
enough maps, and on short notice re- 
production alone posed serious prob- 
lems, not the least of which was security. 
The Army Map Service reproduced 
maps for WTF at its plant just outside 
Washington, D.C., but even there secu- 
rity risks existed, for only a few of the 
800 workers could be screened in time. 
The maps were then taken to Hamp- 
ton Roads by a detachment from the 
66th Engineer Topographic Company, 
which kept them under constant sur- 
veillance. The l:25,000-scale maps of 
the beachheads, issued to the troops 
before they sailed, had place names 
blacked out and carried a false north. 
Only the commanding generals of the 
individual subtask forces received true 
maps before departure from the United 
States. Each of the subtask forces mak- 
ing up the WTF had an attached mobile 
mapmaking detachment from the 66th 
Engineer Topographic Company, and 
each detachment carried a 250-pound 
reserve stock of maps. WTF sailed with 
some sixty tons of maps of many differ- 
ent types — ground force maps on a 
scale of six inches to the mile, air corps 
target maps, colored mosaics of such 
harbors as Port-Lyautey and Casablanca 
and the airdrome of Safi — and hun- 
dreds of photographs. 1 1 

The hurried attempt to produce maps 
for TORCH had poor results. On both 
sides of the Atlantic, maps of the target 
areas had to be printed from available 
sources, and little opportunity existed 



"OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 5, Intelligence and Top- 
ography, app. 5; "The North African Campaign," 
Reader's Digest (February 1943), 98-99; Hist 66th Engr 
Topo Co; Engr Comment on Map Supply Opn Torch, 
TF 3-0.3 (47844), 8- 1 1 Nov 42, apps. 8 and 2; Maj 
William C. Frierson, Preparations for Torch, pp. 1 —3, 
63. 



to bring them up to date or to produce 
them at the scales required for ground 
and close air support operations. In 
some cases major military operations 
had to be based on 1:200, 000-scale 
maps with ground configuration shown 
by spot elevations and hachures. Low- 
grade photomaps, neither rectified for 
tilt nor matched for tone, substituted 
for large-scale maps of limited areas. 
The lack of good base maps of the tar- 
get area, coupled with too little lead 
time, ruled out satisfactory maps for 
the North Africa invasion, while the 
secrecy that enveloped invasion plans 
severely limited the amount of map 
work that could be undertaken in time. 

British and American agencies aided 
each other in preparing intelligence 
material vital to TORCH; one example 
was a bulky work that the Strategic 
Engineer Studies Section in the Strate- 
gic Intelligence Branch, OCE, WD, 
compiled in September 1942. Material 
came from the British as well as from 
American construction companies, con- 
sular agents, geologists, even people 
who sent postcards depicting scenes in 
North Africa. The volumes contained 
a wealth of information on North Africa, 
including descriptions of roads and 
railroads, port facilities, bridge capac- 
ities, water supply, construction ma- 
terials, forests, airfields, electric power, 
and the layout of known minefields. 13 

Engineer beach models were in great 
demand on both sides of the Adantic. 
Large plaster of paris models were 
made at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and 
models of Moroccan beaches came to 
the United States from England. The 
British model beaches originated from 



12 Ltr, Col Herbert Mil wit to EHD, 31 Jan 56. 
13 Coll, Keith, and Rosentha l. The Corps of Engineers: 
Troops and Equipment, p. 450. 



64 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



information the British Inter-Service 
Information Series (ISIS) gleaned from 
reports by the British military staff. 
Two American engineer officers who, 
posing as airline officials, had visited 
Bathurst on the western coast of Africa 
early in 1942 furnished useful informa- 
tion, particularly on coastal surf. Other 
information came from tourist guide- 
books and from recent visitors to North 
Africa. Some of the model beaches 
depicted the terrain a mile or more 
inland. 14 

Engineer Amphibian Brigades 

Engineer training for the invasion of 
North Africa concentrated heavily on 
methods of landing on hostile shores. 
Japanese occupation of Pacific islands 
and German control of nearly all the 
worthwhile harbors on the European 
continent forced the War Department's 
attention to the possibility of Army 
beach crossings and to means of inva- 
sion and logistical support that did not 
rely entirely on seizing strongly de- 
fended ports at the outset. Amphibi- 
ous warfare had been the preserve of 
the Navy for two decades before Ameri- 
can entry into the new conflict, and, in 
fact, had become the raison d'etre of the 
U.S. Marine Corps. An agreement in 
1935 defined the responsibilities of each 
service in landing operations and lim- 
ited the Army to stevedoring at estab- 
lished ports. Clearly based on the experi- 
ence of World War I, in which the Navy 
could deliver goods to French ports that 
were intact and secure from enemy 



14 H. H. Dunham, U.S. Army Transportation and 
the Conquest of North Africa, Jan 45, pp. 42, 80, in 
CMH; Ltr, Milwit to EHD, 31 Jan 56, and Interv, Maj 
Gen Frank O. Bowman, 9 Feb 56. 



interdiction, the arrangement was now 
passe. Though the issue remained open 
throughout the war, the Navy contin- 
ued to lobby for the exclusive right to 
operate across beaches. However, the 
Army did take over a large share of 
this function in the spring of 1942 
because the Navy could not supply 
smaller landing craft or provide enough 
men to operate boats or train other cox- 
swains and crews. Out of the necessity 
to prepare for Army amphibious oper- 
ations grew the engineer amphibian 
brigades. 

The Army's earliest conceptions for 
the brigades in 1942 reemphasized an 
ancient method of moving troops onto 
a hostile shore. The Navy's prewar 
experimentation with amphibious oper- 
ations relied almost entirely upon a 
ship-to-shore method of deployment to 
the beach in which combat troops and 
cargo were unloaded offshore into smal- 
ler craft that made the run from deeper 
water to the shore. Hazardous under 
any circumstances, the ship-to-shore 
system was a near impossibility at night 
and in heavy seas. With the introduc- 
tion of larger, shallow-draft vessels that 
could plow up to the beach and dis- 
gorge men and equipment dry-shod, 
Army and Navy planners could readily 
see the advantage of the shore-to-shore 
amphibious operations. The shore-to- 
shore alternative treated each opera- 
tion as a major river crossing and pre- 
supposed that landing craft making the 
assault would embark units and equip- 
ment on the near, or friendly, shore 
and transport them directly, without 
the confusion of a deepwater transfer, 
to the far, or hostile, shore. Unsaddled 
with earlier doctrine in the field, the 
Army favored the latter method as the 
means of crossing the Channel to the 



THE ENGINEERS IN THE INVASION OF NORTH AFRICA 



65 



Continent. Though the major landings 
of the war employed combinations of 
both methods, Army engineer training, 
organization, and equipment in the 
amphibian brigades created in 1942 fol- 
lowed shore-to-shore doctrine. 15 

The Army started relatively late to 
form amphibian units. Formally estab- 
lished on 10 June 1942 under Col. Dan- 
iel Noce, the Engineer Amphibian Com- 
mand as an SOS organization paralleled 
an Army Ground Forces command, the 
Amphibious Training Command, at 
Camp Edwards, Massachusetts. The 
Engineer Amphibian Command speci- 
fied the organizational shape of the first 
units, the 1st and 2d Engineer Amphib- 
ian Brigades, activated on 15 and 20 
June, respectively. Each consisted of a 
boat regiment, a shore regiment, and 
support units. Later additions to the 
standard TOE included signal units and 
a quartermaster battalion. Each shore 
regiment consisted of three battalions; 
each battalion included two far-shore 
companies responsible for marking and 
organizing hostile beaches and moving 
supplies across them to invading forces 
and one near-shore company charged 
with loading combat troops and mater- 
iel. The Army made constant changes 
in the standard unit composition in an 
attempt to perfect the concept and to 
provide the brigades with a flexible 
structure to meet the conditions of the 
assault. The 2d, 3d, and 4th Brigades, 
eventually known as engineer special 
brigades, each had three boat and shore 
regiments. Because no larger craft were 
available when Colonel Noce took over 
the Engineer Amphibian Command, 



the engineers had as standard equip- 
ment 36-foot LCVPs and 50-foot LCM- 
3s. Though experimentation with the 
50-foot boat produced the LCM— 6, a 
longer, more commodious, and slightly 
faster boat using the originally designed 
engines, the command knew that none 
of its models was a match for the chop- 
py waters of the English Channel and 
none could negotiate larger expanses 
of open ocean. Engineer amphibian 
training at Camp Edwards and later at 
Camp Carrabelle on the Florida Gulf 
Coast centered on the 36- and 50-foot 
craft as they became available from 
Navy stocks or from factories. But even 
before the 105-foot LCT— 5 became 
available, the Navy reemphasized its 
prerogatives on amphibious warfare 
units and on training responsibilities in 
that field. 16 

In July 1942 the Navy reaffirmed the 
validity of the 1935 agreement, arguing 
for control of amphibious operations. 
Though it could not prevail every- 
where — the Army retained command 
and control of the brigades for the most 
part in the Southwest Pacific — the Navy 
officially took over all boats and main- 
tained its responsibility for training boat 
crews elsewhere outside the United 
States. Thus, the Army's Amphibious 
Corps, Atlantic Fleet, consisting of the 
3d and 9th Infantry Divisions and the 
2d Armored Division. under Maj. Gen. 
Jonathan W. Anderson, was subordi- 
nate for training to Rear Adm. H. Kent 
Hewitt, though it was a part of General 
Patton's Western Task Force. A King- 
Marshall agreement then delineated the 



15 Morison, Operations in North African Waters, pp. 
270- 71; Coll, Keith, and Ro senthal Th e Corps of 
Engineers: Troops <fnd Equipment, p. 362. 



rti Coll, Keith, and Rosenthal, Th e Corps of Engineers: 
Troops and Equipment ^ pp. 364— 65| Brig. Gen. William 
F. Heavey , Down Ramp! The Story of the Army Amphibian 
Engineers (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 1947), 
p. 12. 



66 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



Navy's responsibility for operating and 
maintaining all landing boats in the 
European Theater of Operations. The 
agreement worked to the detriment of 
the 1st Engineer Amphibian Brigade 
when it arrived in the theater on 17 
August 1942, only six weeks after its 
formation, to complete its training with 
the 1st Infantry Division. It interfered 
further with the assault training sched- 
ule for the Center Task Force laid out 
in a meeting on 25 August among Brit- 
ish Lt. Gen. K. A. N. Anderson, Vice 
Adm. J. Hughes-Hallett, and Maj. Gen. 
J. C. Hayden and American Maj. Gen. 
Mark W. Clark. 

The engineer brigade, under Col. 
Henry C. Wolfe, operated in England 
under a number of constraints, much 
as the engineer units that had preceded 
it into the theater. Most obvious as a 
source of grief was the command struc- 
ture resulting from the Army-Navy 
agreements. ETOUSA headquarters, 
following the lead from home, estab- 
lished the Maritime Command under 
Rear Adm. Andrew C. Bennett to pro- 
vide naval supervision for the brigade's 
activity. The Maritime Command, hast- 
ily put together on 1 1 August while the 
brigade was still at sea, had virtually no 
personnel experienced in amphibious 
warfare and no equipment to carry out 
training exercises. Admiral Bennett, 
acting with no clear statement of the 
scope of his command, was forced to 
ask Colonel Wolfe for several of his boat 
crews to train junior naval officers in 
small boat handling so that they, in 
turn, could teach future Navy crews. 
Bennett's command also resorted to 
splitting up the brigade elements. The 
unit, designed as an integral organiza- 
tion of 366 officers, 21 warrant officers, 
and 7,013 enlisted men to support an 



entire division, found itself spread on 
both sides of Britain's North Channel. 
Though later designated principal mili- 
tary landing officer for Center Task 
Force, Colonel Wolfe served on Ben- 
nett's staff once the Maritime Com- 
mand headquarters had moved from 
London to Rosneath, Scotland. His own 
headquarters company and the 531st 
Engineer Shore Regiment went to Lon- 
donderry while two battalions of the 
591st Engineer Boat Regiment settled 
in Belfast with the brigade medical 
battalion. The brigade managed to se- 
cure some basic training and shake 
down its organization, but it received 
no training in far-shore unloading, and 
much of its equipment arrived after 
delays at six widely scattered ports 
aboard sixty-five different ships. 

When Brig. Gen. Daniel Noce toured 
the amphibian training centers in the 
United Kingdom in September, he 
found them all inadequate. Constant 
rain reduced training time; the terrain 
behind the available beaches was not 
suited to the brigade's needs; landing 
beaches were too constricted, windswept, 
and rocky. Noce saw boat crews cau- 
tiously approach the beach for fear of 
damaging their craft instead of coming 
in rapidly as they would have to do 
under enemy fire. A lack of tools, 
equipment, and personnel hampered 
the training program, and campsites for 
the men were poor. Large unit train- 
ing was infeasible with the small facili- 
ties available. A reserve of boats had to 



"ETOUSA GO 27, 11 Aug 42; Heavey, Dovm Ramp! 
The Story of the Army Amphibian Engineers, pp. 10—19; 
Memo, Engr Sect, ETOUSA, for Brig Gen T. B. 
Larkin, Chf Engr, 24 Aug 42, sub: Weekly Rpt of 
Activities, 319.1 ETOUSA, EUCOM files; 1st Engr 
Amphib Bde, Rpt of Opns with Center Task Force, 
29 Nov 42. 



THE ENGINEERS IN THE INVASION OF NORTH AFRICA 



67 




GENERAL NOCE (Photograph taken in 1944.) 



be overhauled and carefully protected 
against damage in preparation for 
TORCH, which took the craft temporar- 
ily from training use. The brigade's 
engineers spent considerable time as- 
sembling new craft shipped in crates 
from the United States. Much of this 
production went to equip British units 
before American engineer organiza- 
tions received their standard equip- 
ment. Between 22 September and 5 
October, all landing craft were with- 
drawn from training units to be pre- 
pared for the invasion. 18 

In various parts of the United King- 
dom the brigade's 591st Engineer Boat 
Regiment received some infantry train- 
ing and considerable stevedore and 



hatch crew experience. Because of Brit- 
ish manpower shortages, one battalion 
was to supply 35-man hatch crews for 
ten of the twenty-three cargo vessels in 
the assault wave to the CTF. Two offi- 
cers and fifteen enlisted men of the 
maintenance company of the 591st En- 
gineer Boat Regiment received some 
excellent training in repairing landing 
craft when they were attached to Brit- 
ish naval contingents of the ETF at 
Inverary on Loch Fyne, Scotland. The 
men of the brigade's 561st Boat Mainte- 
nance Company had earlier repaired 
approximately one hundred landing 
craft at the U.S. naval base at Rosneath, 
in the Glasgow area. The company was 
fortunate in having the necessary equip- 
ment to do the job. 19 

For units other than boat mainte- 
nance and stevedore crews, training in 
the United Kingdom consisted chiefly 
of physical conditioning and instruction 
in infantry fundamentals. Only eight 
weeks were available between the time 
units were alerted for TORCH and 
moved to the port area for final re- 
hearsal, and for some engineer units 
construction work interrupted even 
that short period. 

Training in the 19th Engineer Com- 
bat Regiment and the 16th Armored 
Engineer Battalion (the 1st Armored 
Division's organic engineer unit) may 
be taken as an example. The 19th Engi- 
neer Combat Regiment had sufficient 
physical hardening but received no 
ammunition or mines for training and 
no instruction in the use of the Bailey 
bridge, British explosives, or antitank 



'* Memo, AFHQ for Gen Clark, 26 Sep 42, sub: 
Observation at Amphibian Training Centers in Scot- 
land by Brig Gen Daniel Noce, EAC 353 (Training); 
Ur, Lt Col John B. Webb to EHD, 23 Apr 56. 



l9 Ltr, Col Kenneth W. Kennedy to EHD, 9 Apr 56; 
Heavey, Down Ramp! The Story of the Army Amphibian 
Engineers, pp. 20—21. 



68 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



mines. The 16th Armored Engineer 
Battalion fared somewhat better. While 
stationed in Northern Ireland, the 16th 
received some comprehensive bridge 
and ferry training. The unit used the 
British Bailey bridge, its value having 
been recognized by officers who at- 
tended the British military engineer- 
ing school. The 16th, likewise, became 
familiar with other British equipment, 
including Sommerfeld track, mines, 
booby traps, and demolitions. The bat- 
talion also launched a treadway bridge 
from a modified maracaibo boat off 
Newcastle. 21 

During the summer and fall of 1942, 
engineer units went through invasion 
rehearsal drills in both the United States 
and the United Kingdom. In the Zone 
of the Interior the WTF split into three 
subtask forces, X, Y, and Z, and car- 
ried out amphibious drills. Since load- 
ing went slowly, supplies were delayed, 
and because beach capacity was limited, 
one subtask force began rehearsals while 
the others continued loading. From the 
start there were mixups because loads 
were stowed aboard wrong ships and 
ammunition and gasoline were not un- 
loaded for fear of explosions and fire. 
The result was a landing exercise lim- 
ited to the loading and unloading of 
vehicles and other bulky items. While 
Y was loading, X and Z forces partici- 
pated in the same type of exercise. 
Another serious deficiency was a lack 
of rigorous night training, which was 
to prove costly during the landings. The 
value of all WTF exercises also was lim- 
ited by the fact that they took place dur- 

20 Hist 19th Engr C Rgt; AFHQ, compilation Rpts 
Opn Torch, CTF, Incl I, 29 Dec 42, Lesson from 
Opn Torch, HQ, 19th Engr Rgt. 

Hist 16th Armd Engr Bn. The forerunner of the 
LST, the maracaibo was converted from shallow-draft 
oil tankers used on Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela. 



ing near ideal conditions — a tide that 
varied little and a relatively calm sea — 
hardly the situation to be expected 
along the Atlantic coast of North Af- 
rica. 

CTF and ETF held rehearsals like 
those of the WTF on 19-20 October 
near Loch Linnhe on the northwest 
coast of Scotland. Their objectives were 
to practice landing-craft techniques at 
night, rehearse the seizure of objectives 
up to ten miles inland, test communica- 
tion among groups landing on a wide 
front, arid promote cooperation among 
carrier-borne aircraft, naval bombard- 
ment vessels, and ground troops. The 
engineers gained some experience in 
laying out shore installations and com- 
munications but learned almost noth- 
ing about unloading vehicles and sup- 
plies. The rehearsals were final; no 
opportunity existed to correct errors. 23 
Only the experience of an actual inva- 
sion could provide an understanding 
of the problems involved, and only then 
would it be clear that a close-knit beach 
organization was required to coordinate 
the work of engineer shore regiments 
and of the Navy. 24 

The Landings 
Western Task Force 
WTF had the mission of taking the 

22 Leighton and Coakley, Global Logistics and Strategy, 
1940-43, p. 444; Dunham, U.S. Army Transporta- 
tion and the Conquest, pp. 35-37, 73—78; Interv, 
Shotwell and Gardes with Chabbock, 4 Nov 50; U.S. 
Atlantic Fleet Amphib Force to CofS Amphib Force, 
18 Nov 42, sub: Observation of Landing Opns at Port 
Lyautey, EAC folder African campaign. 

"Ltr, Brig Gen John F. Gonklin, 25 Jan 56; The 
Administrative and Logistical History of the Euro- 
pean Theater of Operations, vol. IV, "Operations 
Torch and the ETO," pp. 61-62, in CMH; 1st Engr 
Amphib Bde, Rpt of Opns with Center Task Force. 
Llr, Col John A. Chambers to EHD, 5 Apr 56. 



THE ENGINEERS IN THE INVASION OF NORTH AFRICA 



69 



port and adjacent airfield at Casablanca 
and then establishing communication 
with CTF at Oran. If Spain should 
intercede, the WTF was to join with 
Center Task Force and secure Spanish 
Morocco. Casablanca itself was too 
strongly defended to be taken by direct 
frontal assault. Instead, it was to be cap- 
tured from the rear with three subtask 
forces landing close enough to the city 
to take it before reinforcements could 
arrive. This plan required the early use 
of medium or heavy tanks, for which a 
port was essential since landing craft to 
carry such heavy loads were not then 
available. Also, if land-based aircraft 
were to support the attack, an airfield 
had to be captured quickly. 

The three subtask forces were called 
Brushwood, Goalpost, and Black- 
stone. The first, commanded by Maj. 
Gen. Jonathan W. Anderson and made 
up of the 3d Infantry Division, a por- 
tion of the 2d Armored Division, and 
supporting troops, was to provide the 
main blow by capturing Fedala, a resort 
thirteen miles north of Casablanca, and 
then moving on to Casablanca. Maj. 
Gen. Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., headed the 
GOALPOST force, which was made up 
of part of the 9th Infantry Division and 
elements of the 2d Armored Division 
along with supporting units. Its goals 
were the capture of Mehdia (eighty 
miles from Casablanca) and the Port- 
Lyautey Airfield with its hard-surfaced 
runways. BLACKSTONE, the third sub- 
task force, was under Maj. Gen. Ernest 
N. Harmon and had parts of the 9th 
Infantry and 2d Armored Divisions. Its 
initial mission was the capture of Safi, a 
small port about 15 miles south of 



Casablanca. (Map 3) 
The 



task forces. The 1st and 3d Battalions 
of the 36th Engineer Combat Regiment 
were with BRUSHWOOD, and the 1st 
and 2d Battalions of the 540th Engi- 
neers were with GOALPOST and BLACK- 
STONE, respectively. All were to act as 
shore parties. The 15th Engineer Com- 
bat Battalion (9th Division) with GOAL- 
POST, the 10th Battalion (3d Division) 
with BRUSHWOOD, and elements of the 
17th Armored Engineer Battalion (2d 
Armored Division) with BLACKSTONE 
were to carry out normal combat engi- 
neer duties. The 2d Battalion of the 
20th Engineer Combat Regiment, as- 
signed to BRUSHWOOD, was to remain 
on board ship as a reserve force to be 
called in when needed. 25 

The main objective of the Western 
Task Force on D-day was Fedala, where 
landing beaches were exposed to the 
double hazard of enfilading coastal 
defense batteries and dangerously high 
surf. When successive waves of landing 
craft approached the shore, many swept 
off course to founder on reefs or rocks. 
Others, only partly unloaded and stran- 
ded during ebb tide, were not able to 
retract because following landing craft 
were too close. The pounding surf 
wrecked many stranded craft. The in- 
adequacy of the shore parties, made up 
chiefly of combat engineers of the 36th 
Engineers assisted by naval beach par- 
ties, also created dangerous delays. 

The toll of landing craft was high at 
the Fedala beachhead, and the landing 
of troops and supplies became badly 
disorganized. Barely more than 1 per- 
cent of the supplies was ashore as late 
as 1700 on D-day. Engineer officers, 
badly needed on the beaches to control 



main 



engineer forces of the 
WTF were distributed among the three 



25 HQ, WTF, Engr, 8 Jan 43, sub: Engr Annex to 
Final Rpt of Opns of WTF, 8 Nov 42. 




MAP 3 



72 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 




Wrecked and Broached Landing Craft at Fedala, French Morocco 



and direct the engineers of the shore 
parties, could not get ashore. No cen- 
tralized coordination of supply activi- 
ties for the different landing operations 
existed. The G— 4 section of WTF did 
not get ashore at Fedala until the third 
morning, and the G— 4 himself was not 
with this group of only two officers and 
three enlisted men. General Patton, 
however, was at the beach before day- 
light on D plus 1 and remained there 
until after noon because of his disgust 
over conditions. He condemned what 
seemed to him the lack of enterprise of 
the Army shore parties and took mea- 
sures to divert the small craft from the 
beaches, where they had to fight the 
menacing surf, to the port of Fedala. 
The chaos with which the Western 



Task Force had to contend drove home 
the lesson that trained service troops 
should always accompany invasion for- 
ces to assume the burden of supply and 
service functions, allowing the task force 
commander to concentrate on tactical 
problems. As it was, Patton had held 
back SOS Task Force A, and the SOS 
did not reach Casablanca until 24 De- 
cember. 26 

The employment of engineers as pro- 
visional assault and defensive units in 
the Western Task Force was exempli- 
fied by the experience of Company C, 
15th Engineer Combat Battalion and 
1st Battalion, 540th Engineer Shore 
Regiment, supporting a regimental com- 

z "History of Atlantic Base Section to June 1, 1943, 
vol. I, ch. XIV, p. 9. 



THE ENGINEERS IN THE INVASION OF NORTH AFRICA 



73 



bat team of the 9th Infantry Division in 
GOALPOST — the attack on Mehdia north 
of Casablanca and on Port-Lyautey 
Airfield. In addition to weapons and 
hand tools, the engineers in the assault 
carried mine detectors, bangalore tor- 
pedoes, and flame throwers to enable 
them to push through minefields and 
other obstacles and to reduce pillboxes. 

A provisional assault company of 
engineers made up of detachments 
from Company C, 15th Engineer Com- 
bat Battalion, the 540th Engineer Shore 
Regiment, and the 87 1st Engineer Avi- 
ation Battalion participated in an attack 
on 10 November on the Kasba, an old 
stone fortress that stood on a cliff above 
the mouth of the Sebou River and 
blocked the approach to Mehdia and 
the airfield upriver. Shouting French 
defenders stood on the walls firing 
down at the Americans but American 
infantry attacks along the ridge and 
engineer attacks along the river took the 
Kasba. Then a small detachment from 
Company C of the 15th Engineer Bat- 
talion rendered the fort's guns useless. 
The destroyer Dallas, with a special 
raiding detachment aboard including 
part of a Company C platoon, then 
entered the Sebou, and, after the engi- 
neers had removed a cable net, pro- 
ceeded upriver and captured Port- 
Lyautey Airfield. After the destroyer's 
guns had silenced enemy artillery, the 
engineers began repairs on the airfield. 
That afternoon, the 888th Airborne 
Engineer Aviation Company relieved 
Company C's elements. 

After the occupation of Casablanca 
on D plus 4, supply operations began 
to center there, and an almost hopeless 
tangle quickly developed. The first task 
of the WTF engineers was to resolve 
this problem, and the 175th Engineer 



General Service Regiment tackled the 
job. The regiment reached Casablanca 
on 16 November 1942 in the D plus 5 
convoy and found a dump location that 
was eventually to be expanded to 160 
acres. All supplies brought ashore, 
whether engineer, quartermaster, or 
ordnance, went into this dump, where, 
before any systematic attempt could be 
made to institute depot procedures, 
more supplies of all sorts began arriv- 
ing. Every type of vehicle that could be 
used for the purpose, including jeeps, 
was pressed into service to move sup- 
plies from the ships. The rush to unload 
was so great that materials were cast 
off railroad cars and trucks without sys- 
tem or order, and there were times 
after the December rains began when 
supplies stood a foot deep in water. 

The 175th Engineer General Service 
Regiment had the extraordinarily diffi- 
cult task of operating the engineer 
depot under such chaotic conditions, 
and it had to undertake an around-the- 
clock job for which it was not trained. 
For days the regiment had no opportu- 
nity to rest and no chance to consoli- 
date its units. The engineer depot office 
force was housed in a sixteen-foot tent 
during the first week. For more than a 
month supplies of all description spread 
over the dump area without adequate 
shelter, while guards had to be posted 
to prevent pilfering by natives. The 
engineers improvised shelter for per- 
ishables by turning landing barges up- 
side down. Late in December ware- 
house construction was possible, and 
the engineer dump, which the 175th 
operated throughout the winter months, 
gradually began to assume the charac- 
teristics of an orderly depot. 27 



Hist 175th Engr GS Rgt, Feb 42 -Oct 45. 



74 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



Center Task Force 

The mission of Center Task Force, 
consisting of the 1st Infantry Division, 
Combat Command B of the 1st Ar- 
mored Division, and the 1 st Ranger Bat- 
talion, was to capture Oran and its adja- 
cent airfields, to establish communica- 
tion with the WTF, and, in the event of 
Spanish intervention, to cooperate with 
General Patton in securing Spanish 
Morocco. Finally, CTF was to establish 
communications with ETF at Orleans- 
ville, Algeria. Around Oran, four land- 
ings were scheduled, with a frontal 
assault on the port itself as the key 
objective. The Ranger battalion was to 
develop the smaller port of Arzew, 
thirty miles east of Oran, while Combat 
Command B, designated Task Force 
Red, and the 16th and 18th Regimen- 
tal Combat Teams of the 1st Infantry 
Division went ashore on Beach Z, just 
east of Arzew. Armored forces were to 
slice inland to seize the airfields at 
Tafaraoui and La Senia, as the 16th 
and 18th Regimental Combat Teams 
closed Oran from the east. The 26th 
Regimental Combat Team, 1st Infan- 
try Division, was to land at Les Anda- 
louses and advance on Oran from the 
west. The fourth group, a smaller com- 
ponent of Combat Command B, was to 
come ashore at Mersa Bou Zedjar, move 
inland to Lourmel, seize the airstrip 
there, and then advance on the La Senia 
Airfield just south of Oran. Brig. Gen. 
Henry C. Wolfe, commanding the 
much-dispersed 1st Engineer Amphib- 
ian Brigade, was to operate Arzew as a 
port and bring supplies and troops 
across the adjacent Beach Z. He gave 
the responsibility for unloading the 
D-day convoy to the 531st Engineer 
Shore Regiment, which was to co- 



operate with Royal Navy units on the 
beaches. 28 

The 531st Engineer Shore Regiment, 
attached to the 1st Infantry Division, 
provided one battalion at Les Anda- 
louses and two battalions at Arzew. The 
2d Battalion of the 591st Engineer Boat 
Regiment had shore engineer support 
duty for Combat Command B of the 
1st Armored Division, split between two 
beaches. The 1st Battalion of the 591st 
furnished hatch crews, while the 16th 
Armored Engineer Battalion (1st Ar- 
mored Division) and the 1st Engineer 
Combat Battalion (1st Division) were to 
carry out normal combat engineer 
functions. 29 

The experience of Company F of the 
591st Engineer Boat Regiment illus- 
trated much that was learned about 
combat engineer support at Oran. At- 
tached to Force GREEN (Combat Com- 
mand B of the 1st Armored Division), 
Company F supervised the landing of 
men and supplies at Mersa Bou Zedjar 
(called X-Ray Beach), some twenty- 
eight miles west of Oran. Its 9 officers 
and 186 enlisted men, commanded by 
Capt. Kenneth W. Kennedy, were to 
aid in landing 108 officers, 2,158 en- 
listed men, 409 wheeled vehicles, 54 
tracked vehicles, and 430 tons of sup- 
plies. The company organized into a 
headquarters platoon of 2 officers and 
30 enlisted men; a defense platoon of 1 
officer and 40 enlisted men; a medical 
detachment of 1 officer and 6 aid men; 
and 2 construction and unloading pla- 
toons, each composed of 55 enlisted 



' JK lst Engr Amphib Bde, Lessons from Opn Torch, 
30 Dec 42, Incl 1 to Rpts on Opn TORCH, CTF, 16 Jan 
43. 

'^Ist Engr Amphib Bde, Rpl of Opns with Center 
Task Force; Hists, 1st Engr C Bn and 16th Armd 
Engr Bn. 



THE ENGINEERS IN THE INVASION OF NORTH AFRICA 



75 



men, one with 3 officers and the other 
with 2. Available landing craft consisted 
of 10 LCAs, 14 LCP(R)s, 4 LCM(I)s, 2 
LCM(III)s, and 1 LST. 30 

Plans called for routing all vehicles 
off the LST directly onto a road lead- 
ing to the village of Bou Zadjar. As soon 
as waterproofing could be removed, the 
vehicles were to move out along the 
road. All other vehicles coming ashore 
were to gather in an assembly area for 
removal of waterproofing, and this ini- 
tial assembly area was also to serve as a 
dump to keep both beaches clear. At 
night wheeled vehicles were to be guided 
across the beach to the area by a line of 
shaded green lights held by guides, 
while tracked vehicles were to be guided 
to the same area by orange lights along 
another route. Personnel could follow 
either color. 

A high rocky point divided X-Ray 
Beach into two sections, Green and 
White beaches, about a fifteen-minute 
walk apart. Company F had to be split 
into two complete units, each with its 
own defense and construction sections, 
unloading details, and even medical 
detachments. Green Beach was 100 
yards long and almost 30 yards deep 
and rose steeply to high sand dunes 
and a hill of 500 feet. The only possible 
exit was to the east, a climb up a steep 
grade over deep sand. Because of sand- 
bars, landing craft had to be halted 300 
yards from the beach. Much of White 
Beach was difficult for landings because 
of a narrow approach and dangerous 
rocks in the water along the shore. 

During the landings little went accord- 



*° This account for Company F derives from Capt 
Kenneth W. Kennedy, Rpt on Amphib Opn by Co F, 
591st Engr Boat Rgt, 27 Feb 43, in Hist 591st Engr 
Boat Rgt, 1943-44; Ltr, Lt Col Kenneth W. Kennedy 
to EHD, 9 Apr 56. 



ing to plan. When the operation started 
at 0145, the weather was clear and the 
surf moderate. Captain Kennedy and 
the men of his company headquarters, 
who were supposed to land on Green 
Beach at H plus 15 minutes, were ten 
minutes late. They remained alone on 
the beach for almost an hour, because 
the British naval beach party, which was 
to put the markers in place, had not yet 
landed. The contingents of the shore 
party that were to land at H-hour dis- 
embarked on Green Beach at H plus 
90 minutes and White Beach at H plus 
30 minutes. 

Captain Kennedy and his group met 
no French opposition. They carried out 
the reconnaissance which was to have 
been directed by the missing assistant 
shore party commanders on the beach 
and for some distance inland. When 
the markers were finally put down, the 
first few waves of landing craft failed 
to land between them, and many craft 
were damaged and vehicles mired. Ear- 
ly in the operation an LCP(R) caught 
fire and lit up the area for miles around, 
revealing the site of operations. The 
vessel finally sank under the fire of a 
.50-caliber machine gun of Company 
F, but for some time thereafter oil con- 
tinued to burn. 

At approximately H plus 3 the naval 
beach party notified the engineers it 
wanted to land its maracaibo on Green 
Beach according to plan. To unload at 
this spot Company A of the 16th Ar- 
mored Engineer Battalion had to erect 
300 feet of treadway bridging, as ex- 
pected. At H plus 4 the maracaibo was 
almost ready for unloading, but no 
Sommerfeld track for preparing an exit 
road was yet on hand. Without this 
flexible mat as a base, trucks would sink 
to their axles in the sand. By the time 



76 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



the track arrived from White Beach and 
was in place, it was H plus 5, four hours 
behind schedule. 

Landing craft continued to founder, 
and at noon on D-day Captain Ken- 
nedy had to close the beach. From that 
hour all landing operations took place 
at better protected White Beach. But 
White Beach had only two narrow exits, 
and in one of these, seventy-five yards 
from the landing points, only tracked 
vehicles could be used. By H plus 6, 
1 ,500 barracks bags and other supplies 
had been dumped on the sands, and 
too little room remained to put down 
Sommerfeld tracks; as a result, all sup- 
plies had to be carried from the water's 
edge on sleds. At 1300 the first combat 
unit had moved out with its equipment, 
but an hour and a half later the beach 
had become completely blocked by gaso- 
line cans, barracks bags, and ammu- 
nition. 

By 1800, with the aid of Arabs and 
twenty-five men from units already 
ashore, Kennedy and his men finally 
had relieved the congestion. It was then 
possible to lay Sommerfeld track and 
get two trucks on the beach simultan- 
eously. Thereafter, the beach remained 
clear, and by 1900 enough equipment 
was ashore to send an additional com- 
bat unit forward. 

Captain Kennedy called for thirty 
men from units already ashore to aid 
in a night unloading shift. As darkness 
fell, with serials coming in more slowly 
and inexperienced crews contributing 
to the boat casualties, the whole opera- 
tion lagged further behind schedule. 
Next morning, 9 November, unload- 
ing continued at a still slower pace as 
the number of serviceable landing craft 
dwindled. Naval forces tried to compen- 
sate for the small craft losses by load- 



ing an LST directly from the cargo ves- 
sels and then beaching it. As another 
expedient, a ponton bridge served as a 
floating lighter to bring ashore some 
twenty light tanks. That night nearly 
all the LCMs had their propellers tan- 
gled with landing lines or had broached. 
Broached craft lay broadside to the sea 
on the sand and open to the pounding 
surf; even undamaged, they were of 
no use until they could be pushed off 
the shore and put back into action. Not 
until 1900 on 10 November was the 
beach closed and beach operations de- 
clared complete — twenty-three hours 
behind time. 

With little training in shore opera- 
tions, with only three vehicles at its 
disposal, and with the many problems 
of unloading, Company F managed to 
accomplish its task by dint of continu- 
ous hard work and cooperation with 
the British beach party — the fruit of 
joint exercises in the United Kingdom. 
Since a definite line of responsibility 
between the two had not been drawn, 
each could, and did, perform almost 
identical tasks; the shore party aiding, 
for instance, in retracting the boats 
from the beach and the beach party 
helping to unload the boats. 

While the Rangers were capturing 
the French fort above Arzew and silenc- 
ing Arzew's harbor defenses, the 1st 
Infantry Division (less the 26th Regi- 
mental Combat Team) landed on the 
beaches adjacent to Arzew, the 531st 
Engineer Shore Regiment (less the 3d 
Battalion) assisting. Supplies began to 
come ashore, with ammunition given 
top priority. The 531st Engineer Shore 
Regiment had enough trucks to clear 
the beaches initially but did not have 
the manpower to keep up the pace 
without relief, and unloading slowed 



THE ENGINEERS IN THE INVASION OF NORTH AFRICA 



77 



perceptibly after D-day. However, ton- 
nage stacked along and near the beaches 
was never in danger of getting wet since 
the tide in the Mediterranean varied 
only about a foot. The 1st Division's 
capture of the port of Arzew decreased 
dependence upon the beaches, and by 
D plus 3 ships were at dockside being 
unloaded rapidly. The beaches then 
closed and 531st Engineer Shore Regi- 
ment personnel, along with their trucks, 
became available for unloading parties 
in the town. . 

The lack of trained supply person- 
nel was a serious handicap from the 
beginning. After the armistice with the 
French, the confusion increased with a 
scramble to secure sites for depots and 
dumps. By D plus 3 staff officers were 
"scurrying in all directions" to find loca- 
tions for supplies coming in from "the 
tangled mess at Arzew" and to get ready 
for those discharged from a convoy 
arriving that day. 

The first echelon of the Mediterra- 
nean Base Section (MBS) organization 
came ashore near Oran on 1 1 Novem- 
ber. Within a month, with the arrival 
of later echelons and service troops 
from the United States, this base sec- 
tion was operating with comparative 
smoothness. Its Engineer Service con- 
sisted of three groups of men that left 
England on 12, 22, and 27 November. 
During November the first two groups, 
totaling fifteen officers and thirty-eight 
enlisted men detached from SOS, ETO- 
USA, served as part of the II Corps 
engineer's staff. Upon landing at Oran 
their most immediate jobs were acquir- 
ing real estate, establishing water points 



^'Ltr, Brig Gen W. A. Carter, Engr, U.S. Army 
Forces, Far East, and Eighth U.S. Army (Rear), to Lt 
Col David M. Matheson, Chf, 8 Feb 56. 



and engineer depots, and handling 
gasoline and oils from ship-to-shore 
storage and tank cars. 

On 8 December, two days after the 
third group arrived, and the day MBS 
was activated, Headquarters, Engineer 
Service, MBS, was formally set up to 
incorporate all three groups. During 
December the Engineer Service had an 
average strength of fifty-seven officers, 
one warrant officer, and sixty-three 
enlisted men assigned and four offi- 
cers and enlisted men attached. 32 

Eastern Task Force 

Two hundred fifty miles to the east 
was the Eastern Assault Force (EAF), 
at first under the command of General 
Ryder of the 34th Division, later the 
nucleus of the British First Army under 
Lt. Gen. K. A. N. Anderson. This attack 
force, after occupying Algiers and adja- 
cent airfields, was to establish commu- 
nication with CTF at Orleansville, south- 
west of Algiers, and to advance toward 
Tunis. For the seizure of Algiers, EAF 
devised a plan like that CTF employed. 
The landings were to take place out- 
side the Bay of Algiers, on beaches west 
and east of the city, while two smaller 
groups were to take Maison Blanche 
Airfield, ten miles southeast of Algiers, 
and Blida Airfield, twenty-nine miles 
southwest of the city. A special landing 
party (TERMINAL) prepared to make a 
direct assault on the port itself to fore- 
stall sabotage of harbor installations. 
EAF was about one-half American, 
chiefly the 39th Regimental Combat 
Team (9th Division) and the 168th Regi- 



S2 Rpt, HQ, MBS, Ofc of the Engr, to ACofS, G-2, 
17 Dec 42, sub: Organization Hist, Engr Service, 
10-30 Nov 42, 314.7 History 1942-48, Ofc of Engr, 
North African Service Command. 



78 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



mental Combat Team (34th Division). 
Company C of the 109th Engineer 
Combat Battalion was with the 168th 
Regimental Combat Team; Company 
A of the 15th Engineers (9th Division) 
and the 2d Battalion of the 36th Engi- 
neers were with the 39th Regimental 
Combat Team. 33 U.S. engineers partici- 
pated less in ETF than in the WTF and 
CTF landings, nor were they needed 
as much, for Algiers was captured on 
D-day. 

The Assessment 

The invasion of North Africa, by 
far the largest amphibious operation 
attempted to that time, developed in a 
very brief time, and from the very be- 
ginning much went wrong. In a number 
of instances, as on Green Beach at 
Oran, unloading fell hours behind 
schedule. Engineer units landed three, 
five, even ten and more hours behind 
schedule. Not only were inexperienced 
troops late in disembarking from the 
transports, but equally inexperienced 
Royal Navy crews, approaching the 
coast in darkness from points far off- 
shore, beached their craft many yards — 
even miles — from designated landing 
spots. In one extreme case a landing 
craft missed its mark by twelve miles. 
Some of the landings were so scattered 
that supplies were spread out all along 
the beaches, and the small engineer 
shore parties had difficulty governing 
the flow to advancing troops inland. 

Another delaying factor was the poor 
seamanship of Navy crews in handling 
landing craft at the beaches. All three 
task forces had high losses: WTF lost 



ss The Adm and Log Hist of the ETO, vol. IV, 
"Operations Torch and the ETO," p. 86; AFHQ, 
Outline Opn Torch, an. 4, ETF. 



34.3 percent of its craft, CTF 28 per- 
cent, and EAF 94 percent. So many 
boats broached or swamped that sched- 
ules for following boat waves fell apart. 
The Navy claimed, with some justice, 
that help from those on shore, includ- 
ing engineers, might have reduced the 
losses; nevertheless, one of the chief 
causes of boat losses was the failure of 
the naval beach parties to place mark- 
ers properly or in time to guide the 
boats. In some cases the beach parties 
emplaced no markers at all. 34 

The division of responsibility between 
the two services was not well defined, 
especially as to the time and place at 
which the beach commander was to 
transfer his authority to the shore com- 
mander. Naval officials afterwards com- 
plained that the engineers refused to 
aid in unloading supplies and clearing 
boats from the beaches; the engineers 
made similar criticisms of certain naval 
personnel. Both accusations had some 
basis; neither service clearly understood 
the other's particular problems or du- 
ties. 

A better preventive measure might 



" 14 The following assessment of engineer operations 
on 9- ll November 1942 is based on Operation, 1st 
Prov Bde (WTF), an. 3; Rpts of 1st Engr Amphib Bde 
(CTF); 591st Engr Boat Rgt; Co F, 36th Engr C Bn; 
Co A, 15th Engr C Bn; 109th Engr C Bn; 19th Engr 
C Bn; 3d Inf Div, an. 2; U.S. Atlantic Fleet Amphib 
Force (Port Lyautey), an. 8, app. 1; Rpts bv Lt Col 
C. F. Tank, CE (WTF), 18 Jan 43; A. R. Wilson 
(Atlantic Base Sect), 17 Jan 43; Brig Gen S. C. God- 
frey (HQ, USAAF, Ofc Dir of Base Services, Engr 
Sect), 4 Jan 43; all in folder African Campaign, FAC. 
Davison Memo; Hists, 1st Engr Spec Bde, Jan 42— Sep 
45; 591st Engr Boat Rgt, 1943-44; 561st Engr Boat 
Maint Co; 19th Engr C Rgt; Morison, Operations in 
North African Waters; Intervs with Lt Col Houghton, 
30 May 50; Lt Col Chubbock, 4 Nov 50; Lt Col Philip 
Y. Browning; and Col William Powers, 13 Feb 51; 
Ltrs, Lt Col J. B. Chubbock, 12 Mar 56; Col A.T.W. 
Moore, 9 Mar 56; Col R. C. Brown, 20 Mar 56; Col 
John A. Chambers, 5 Apr 56; Ll Col Kenneth W. 
Kennedy, 9 Apr 56. 



THE ENGINEERS IN THE INVASION OF NORTH AFRICA 



79 



well have been experience: more train- 
ing exercises before the landing. If a 
strict division of responsibility was in- 
deed essential, it should have been clear 
to all. On the other hand, the difficulty 
might have been overcome had suffi- 
cient authority been given one indi- 
vidual. This did not happen. Engineer 
shore party commanders were uncer- 
tain of their authority and did not know 
how to meet the inevitable unexpected 
developments. The WTF task force 
engineer, who might have directed the 
landing activities, did not arrive ashore 
until the emergency had passed. At 
Fedala, Safi, and Mehdia experienced 
SOS personnel, who might have made 
it possible to use the ports earlier, also 
remained aboard ship. 

Worse still was the situation at the 
Bay of Arzew. Units involved in the 
operation included the 1st Infantry 
Division; a port battalion operating with 
shore, boat, and combat engineer units; 
and a naval unit, all with no clear divi- 
sions of responsibility among them. 
Communication here and elsewhere 
between the men at the port and the 
vessels lying offshore was far from 
perfect. Engineer shore parties 
depended upon the naval beach par- 
ties for communications with the ships. 
This may explain complaints that land- 
ing craft appeared to be idle, lying at 
anchor or merely cruising about, when 
they were needed to land men and 
equipment. Communication was also 
poor among elements ashore. Loud- 
speakers often could not be heard above 
the firing, the shouting, and the din of 
the beaches. In such an intricate opera- 
tion many things could go awry, and 
many did; even British accents over 
loudspeakers confused the relatively 
few Americans on EAF beaches. 



At all the beaches, when the engi- 
neers were ready to move supplies to 
more permanent dumps they faced an 
acute transportation shortage, one that 
should have been expected after the 50 
percent cut in vehicles. For many engi- 
neer units (already understrength to 
perform all their assigned tasks effi- 
ciently), this cut had created another 
handicap: many engineers of the shore 
parties were specialists, whereas land- 
ing operations with little transportation 
and heavy equipment called for un- 
skilled labor. General Noce of the Engi- 
neer Amphibian Command later rec- 
ommended that the shore parties be 
enlarged by as much as 30 percent. 

The bulldozer was the most valuable 
means of moving supplies and equip- 
ment across the beaches; too few were 
available and many arrived too late or 
not at all. Some vehicles landed with- 
out their drivers, or drivers landed with- 
out their vehicles. The whole unload- 
ing process lagged when a great deal 
more than anticipated had to be done 
by hand. 

Some of the blame for the delay 
could be charged to loading and some 
to unloading. Often combat, shore, 
aviation, and service engineers found 
that their equipment had not been com- 
bat loaded at all, especially in the CTF 
shipping. Combat loading meant that 
troops were shipped with their equip- 
ment and were ready for combat when 
they disembarked. Though not econom- 
ical in terms of ship space, the practice 
was all important in saving time during 
operations ashore. Convoy-loaded equip- 
ment had to be assembled for use after 
being deposited on the beach. More- 
over, ship unloading plans often did 
not coincide with actual loadings, while 
priority lists for unloading were all too 



80 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



often ignored. In one case the lighters 
unloading the U.S.S. Leedstown were 
ordered to report to the U.S.S. Chase 
when only half the prime movers loaded 
on the Leedstown — equipment badly 
needed to clear the beaches — had been 
landed. One battalion of the 36th Engi- 
neer Combat Regiment lost most of its 
equipment and tools when the Leedstown 
was torpedoed on D plus 2. Hatch crews 
frequently were not familiar with their 
ships. (Later criticism pointed out that 
these crews should have had 60 per- 
cent more men.) Yet there were instances 
of rapid and efficient work. The 1st 
Battalion of the 591st Boat Regiment 
received a commendation from the 
commanding general, Communications 
Zone, NATOUSA, for the work of its 
hatch crews and unloading details on 
ten of the CTF's twenty-three trans- 
ports. 

Part of the delay in unloading un- 
doubtedly could be attributed to the 
inexperience of officers and men, and 
sometimes delays had serious conse- 
quences. By H plus 96 the 1st Engineer 
Amphibian Brigade should have landed 
80 percent of its assigned cargo and all 
of its assigned personnel. Actually, only 
75 percent of the vehicles and 35 per- 
cent of the total cargo were ashore on 
schedule, although all personnel had 
landed. In this instance, and in several 
others, the forward movement of com- 
bat troops was retarded. 

Engineers made many errors during 
the early phases onshore. Through 
ignorance or demands for speedy un- 
loading, they often set up dumps too 
close to the water's edge and then had 
to move them when the tides came in. 
Training exercises which had taken 
place in ideal tide conditions and calm 
seas both in the United States and in 



the United Kingdom did little to pre- 
pare the engineers for the Moroccan 
tides, rising as much as fourteen feet, 
or for the rough seas that interrupted 
unloading at several beaches. Had the 
engineers been more familiar with con- 
ditions, they could have closed beaches 
sooner, moved on to the captured ports, 
and saved boats and equipment. 

Another cause for delay in getting 
supplies forward, at least in the Casa- 
blanca area, was piling all items — eng- 
ineer, signal, medical, ordnance, and 
the five different classes — into common 
dumps. This mingling made it difficult 
to find certain much-needed supplies 
quickly, and the engineers claimed that 
they had neither the time nor the man- 
power to sort supplies properly. Even 
in dumps where segregation was at- 
tempted, faded package markings often 
hindered distribution. Frequently, sup- 
plies belonging to combat and shore 
party engineers were thrown together 
with those belonging to aviation engi- 
neers. The shore party engineers com- 
plained that packaging materials and 
crates were often too flimsy; corrugated 
paper or cardboard containers proved 
of no value whatever. Another com- 
plaint was that too often equipment was 
shipped in boxes too large and bulky 
for easy handling. 

Unloading and other shore opera- 
tions could have proceeded with much 
greater dispatch had full advantage 
been taken of native labor. The engi- 
neers made some effort to employ local 
workers on the beaches and at the 
ports; the 591st Boat Regiment, by 
doing so, cut discharge time in half at 
the Arzew quays. But the Americans 
were too trustful and lax in supervision. 
At Safi, natives thronged the beaches, 
unloading landing craft for a cigarette, 



THE ENGINEERS IN THE INVASION OF NORTH AFRICA 



81 




Moroccan Labor Gang at Casablanca Harbor 



a can of food, a piece of cloth. Two 
days later tons of ammunition and ra- 
tions were found on Arab fishing ves- 
sels. American planning and prepara- 
tions had made too little provision for 
using this vast labor pool or studying 
its peculiarities. Civilian workers wanted 
to be paid in goods, not in local cur- 
rency. Nor did they look with favor 
upon the weekly pay system, and many 
quit in disgust after a day's work. Once 
the engineers arranged to pay in cloth, 
sugar, tea, bread, and the like, willing 
workers became available. 

The engineers' slowness to begin sal- 
vaging equipment lost or damaged on 
the beaches, in turn, slowed unloading. 
The engineers were not trained for sal- 
vage work, nor had they been assigned 
it in the plans. But, they did help to 
recover a considerable amount of equip- 



ment and supplies. Some tractors used 
in futile attempts to salvage equipment 
from the water were lost. LCVPs proved 
inadequate; tank lighters, although bet- 
ter adapted, were little used. Sleds of 
wood or metal, some of them impro- 
vised, proved most useful on the 
beaches. A sled designed to carry larger 
loads would have been more useful, and 
a reserve of sleds, cables, ahd chains 
would have improved salvage work and 
general movement of equipment and 
supplies. 

A further impediment to rapid prog- 
ress on the beaches was the inadequacy 
of the maps issued to the shore engi- 
neers. These maps indicated the con- 
tour of the terrain only a short distance 
behind the beaches, and the informa- 
tion was sometimes inaccurate. In sev- 
eral areas engineers found unexpect- 



82 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



edly high dunes that obstructed egress 
to the inland plateau and that forced 
them in one case to build a road with a 
hairpin turn; at Blue Beach (Mehdia- 
Plage) engineers had to construct a road 
through a mile of deep, soft sand. 

Troops and equipment moved off 
the various beaches on quickly impro- 
vised roads and bridges substantial 
enough to withstand heavy military 
traffic but emplaced in a constant strug- 
gle with poor construction material, 
equipment, procedure, and inexper- 
ience. In general, engineers concluded 
that the British Sommerfeld track, 
chicken wire netting, and cyclone wire 
were all inadequate, for they sank into 
the soft sand after traffic passed over 
them. They found cyclone wire of some 
value, provided burlap bags were used 
as a base. The bulldozer, the most use- 
ful piece of equipment landed, was put 
to various uses such as clearing exits 
through sand dunes and other obsta- 
cles, pulling equipment from lighters 
and across the beaches, and afterwards 
building and repairing roads as well as 
runways at airfields. Unfortunately, 
some bulldozers proved mechanically 
defective. Waterproofing would have in- 
creased their utility, and they all should 
have been equipped with winches, so 
effective in pulling out mired vehicles. 
Light cranes, had they been present to 
operate with the bulldozers, would have 
made unloading, as well as rescuing 
stranded boats and vehicles, more effi- 
cient. A lack of spare parts was still 
another factor in cutting down the 
effective use of vehicles and other engi- 
neer equipment, even some weapons. 

Shore party engineers complained of 
the heavy individual load of equipment 
they had to carry, a problem common 
to all troops in the TORCH operation. 



Much might have been left behind for 
later shipment or left on board ship to 
be distributed at a more convenient 
time. Engineer officers and noncom- 
missioned officers complained espe- 
cially of the heavy submachine gun. On 
many occasions soldiers were forced to 
jump into the water some distance out 
to keep boats from broaching. Men bur- 
dened with their heavy loads stumbled 
and fell in the surf trying to wade 
ashore through water that was in some 
places two to four feet deep. 

In summing up his observations dur- 
ing TORCH somewhat later, an experi- 
enced engineer officer entered an oft- 
repeated plea for enough service troops, 
including guard units, fire-fighting 
units, bomb disposal companies, depot 
companies, and labor units, especially 
in the early waves of an invasion force. 
"When this is not done, either combat 
troops must be diverted to service tasks 
for which they are not trained, [thus 
reducing] the effective combat strength 
by more men than would have been 
necessary if trained service troops had 
been available; or the combat troops 
will not be supplied, in which case they 
cease to be effective." 35 

The dilemma was classic and contin- 
uing. The experience the engineers 
gained in the invasion of North Africa 
stood them well in future landings in 
the Mediterranean and European the- 
aters and made superior veterans of 
them. Lessons derived on the littered 
beaches were enlarged upon in new 
procedures and organizations, but many 
had to be learned again in the face of 
far stronger resistance than the French 
defenders offered in Algeria and Mor- 
occo. 

3S Rpt, Coi Morris W. Gilland, Dep Engr, MBS, to 
CG, MBS, 27 Dec 42, sub: Lessons from Opn Torch, 
Pence Papers, Dec 42- Jan 43, MBS. 



CHAPTER V 



The Tunisian Campaign 



As soon as the Allies concluded an 
armistice with the French, British units 
of the Eastern Task Force struck by air, 
sea, and land toward Tunis. With this 
port in Allied hands, the Axis hold on 
North Africa would be broken. On 12 
November 1942, British commandos 
and paratroopers converged on Bone, 
135 miles west of Tunis, but German 
units had begun flying into Tunisia 
from Sicily and the mainland of Italy 
three days earlier; by the twelfth they 
were arriving by sea. 1 Before the month 
was out the British 78th Division with 
its Blade Force (which resembled a U.S. 
armored combat command and includ- 
ed an American armored battalion) 
drove to the outskirts of Djedeida, less 
than sixteen miles from Tunis. But five 
months would pass before the Allies 
reached Tunis. The rapid Axis buildup 
and a lack of air support (Allied planes 
were mired in the mud of fair-weather 
fields) brought the British offensive to 
a halt. By Christmas Day AFHQ had 
canceled immediate attack plans, for a 
much larger push was in prospect. The 
Allies were faced with building suffi- 



1 For a detailed account of combat operations in 
Tunisia, see Howe, Northwest Africa, pp. 277ff, which 
provided background material for this account. For 
more general treatment, see Commander in Chiefs 
Dispatch, North African Campaign, 1942—43 (here- 
after cited as Eisenhower Dispatch). 



cient strength in Tunisia to crush the 
expanded German and Italian forces. 

The British First Army, moving over 
the long land route east from Algiers, 
built up its strength in the hill country 
around Bedja. Elements of the Ameri- 
can II Corps arrived from faraway 
Oran to take up positions east of Tebessa 
whence they could threaten central 
Tunisia; poorly equipped French forces 
were deployed along the Eastern Dor- 
sal as a link between the British and the 
Americans. By mid-January II Corps 
elements had concentrated in the Teb- 
essa-Kasserine region, and on the eigh- 
teenth the enemy began exerting pres- 
sure against the center of the Allied 
line, which the French held. These 
operations, continuing until early Feb- 
ruary, pulled additional American units 
into action but weakened Allied defen- 
sive positions along the Eastern Dorsal. 
The stage was being set for a swift, hard 
blow by enemy armored units, and the 
German-Italian Panzer Army had reached 
a strong defensive position (the Mareth 
Line) near the southeastern Tunisian 
border. Since it would be weeks before 
the British Eighth Army under Gen- 
eral Sir Bernard L. Montgomery could 
mount an offensive against this posi- 
tion from the east, German panzer units 
from the north and south teamed up 
for an assault designed to overrun II 



84 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



Corps and force the British First Army 
into a general withdrawal westward. 

The main attack poured through 
Faid Pass on 14 February, sweeping ele- 
ments of the U.S. 1st Armored Divi- 
sion before it and isolating American 
troops on solitary mountains: When the 
assault began, three U.S. divisions were 
in Tunisia, all rather fully committed 
along some one hundred miles of front. 
Before it ended eight days later, enemy 
tanks had swept through Kasserine Pass 
and struck some seventy miles deep into 
II Corps territory, coming dangerously 
close to a large Allied supply dump at 
Tebessa and a key road center at 
Thala. Allied armored reinforcements, 
along with increasing support from the 
XII Air Support Command (U.S.) and 
Montgomery's buildup against the Mar- 
eth Line in southeastern Tunisia, com- 
bined to compel a German withdrawal, 
which began 23 February. 

Two more phases of the campaign, 
both offensive, followed for II Corps 
in Tunisia. On 17 March the bulk of II 
Corps, aided by air strikes, pushed 
through Gafsa toward Maknassy and 
Gabes. This limited offensive was timed 
to draw off German reserves from the 
Mareth Line while Montgomery cracked 
through from the south. Montgomery's 
offensive began on 20 March and dur- 
ing the next three weeks drove the 
enemy back into a small bridgehead 
around Tunis and Bizerte. 

Squeezed out of the action by Eighth 
Army's advance, II Corps moved north 
across the British First Army supply 
lines to take over British 5 Corps posi- 
tions near Bedja. On 24 April the Amer- 
ican force began the final phase of the 
Tunisian campaign, an attack through 
the hills near the north coast of Tuni- 



sia toward Bizerte. On its right, the Brit- 
ish First Army, also driving eastward, 
pressed the attack on Tunis in conjunc- 
tion with Eighth Army, pushing north 
from positions near Enfidaville. On 7 
May American units first entered Bizer- 
te. Tunis fell to the British, and by the 
thirteenth organized Axis resistance in 
Africa had ended. 

Engineer support of air and ground 
operations in Tunisia had to take into 
account the terrain and the weather. 
In central Tunisia, where the main 
American effort took place, the terrain 
was quite different from the hilly area 
around Bizerte and Tunis in the north, 
where the British First Army began its 
buildup. From a wide, semi-arid pla- 
teau of sandstone and clay rose two 
ridgelines, the Eastern and Western 
Dorsals, which came together at a point 
south of Pont-du-Fahs. The Eastern 
Dorsal extended almost due south from 
Pont-du-Fahs for over 125 miles to 
Maknassy; the bolder Western Dorsal 
angled away to the southwest toward 
Feriana. Clay roads snaked through at 
a few points and two ribbons of as- 
phalt macadam crossed to the sea, one 
through Sbeitla to Sfax, the other 
through Gafsa to Gabes. Except for bits 
of verdure, the landscape offered little 
color. Central Tunisia had no peren- 
nial streams and few trees except for a 
pine forest that hugged the hills from 
Bou Chebka through Kasserine Pass 
and north toward Thala. 

Control of the passes through the two 
ridgelines was the key to hundreds of 
square miles of wadi-scarred tableland 
that lay between. Once through the 
passes, armor could range cross-country 
with comparative ease during dry weath- 
er. During the winter months rainfall 



THE TUNISIAN CAMPAIGN 



85 



turned the flats into mud and made 
vehicular movement difficult on all but 
a few hard-topped roads. 

By the time II Corps began to move 
into Tunisia early in January, the rainy 
season was more than a month old. 
Northern Tunisia and Algeria have an 
annual rainfall of about twenty-five to 
thirty inches, almost all between late 
November and early March. These 
rains were instrumental in keeping 
Allied planes on the ground and halt- 
ing the first Allied drive on Bizerte and 
Tunis. The nearest hard-surfaced Al- 
lied airfield was a small one near Bone, 
in Algeria. Allied planes at hastily grad- 
ed airstrips nearer the front soon be- 
came hopelessly mired in mud, whereas 
Axis planes, flying from hard-surfaced 
airfields only minutes from the battle- 
ground, ranged virtually unopposed 
over the front. Until drier fields could 
be found or all-weather ones built, 
Allied airpower could do little toward 
winning superiority or cutting the ene- 
my's air and sea supply routes from 
Sicily. 2 

Aviation Engineer Support 

The North African invasion em- 
ployed American aviation engineer units 
available in England or summarily as- 
sembled in the United States, and in 
the days after the successful landings 
they foundered amid a number of un- 
controlled circumstances. The 809th, 
814th, 815th, and 817th Engineer Avia- 



2 Eisenhowever Dispatch; General Omar N. Bradley, 
A Soldier's Story (New York: Holt, 1951), p. 22; Llr, 
Col W. A. Carter, 8 Feb 56; Wesley Frank Craven and 
James Lea Gate, eds., "The U.S. Army Air Forces in 
World War II," vol. II, Europe: TORCH to POINT- 
BLANK (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949), 
pp. 91, 116. 



tion Battalions landed with the Center 
Task Force. From the United States 
came a battalion of the 21st Engineer 
Aviation Regiment, the prototype of its 
kind, and the 887th Engineer Airborne 
Company and the 888th Airborne Engi- 
neer Aviation Company. With the ex- 
ception of the 21st Engineer Aviation 
Regiment, the units were hastily formed 
and sketchily trained. The 809th, though 
experienced in airfield construction in 
England, had to draw 150 enlisted men 
from the 832d and 157 from the 825th 
in the United Kingdom to achieve its 
allotted strength. The 887th and the 
888th were thrown together in the 
United States just weeks before the con- 
voy sailed, and none of the units had 
any inkling of the conditions of for- 
ward airfield construction in a fluid 
campaign. 

Charged first with resurfacing dam- 
aged runways near the larger cities 
within the landing zones, the Ameri- 
can units were to support air opera- 
tions including patrols over Allied lines 
of communications along the coast west 
of Algiers; east of that city, according 
to the invasion plan, British Airdrome 
Construction Groups were responsible 
for forward fields supporting the move 
toward Tunisia. Within this division of 
labor, the American aviation engineers 
were to construct six fields ringing the 
borders of Spanish Morocco on the pos- 
sibility that the Axis might mount an 
offensive against the Allied bridgehead 
through the Iberian peninsula and into 
the Spanish dependency. 

Aside from training deficiencies, the 
aviation engineers' foremost problem 
was the fate of their equipment, espe- 
cially that coming from England. Load- 
ed on different ships from the units, 
with some ships sailing in different 



86 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



convoys, engineer paraphernalia from 
heavy machinery to hand tools often 
failed to arrive with the troops. The 
815th's equipment was lost at sea off 
Oran with a torpedoed vessel, and the 
ship transporting part of the 809th's 
belongings returned to England with 
engine trouble two days after sailing 
with the invasion convoy. Heavy con- 
struction equipment was often diverted 
to other use or to other engineer units 
as it came ashore. Some of the 809th's 
materiel arrived intact because mem- 
bers of the battalion traveled on the 
same ship and supervised its unloading, 
but the unit's trucks, in a later convoy, 
arrived stripped of spare tires, all can- 
vas supports, and the tools packed a- 
board them for embarkation. As late as 
January 1943, the 2d Battalion of the 
21st Engineer Aviation Regiment, work- 
ing at Craw Field near Port-Lyautey, 
had to use secondhand French tools or 
improvised equipment. All the neces- 
sary equipment did not arrive until 
March 1943. 3 

The existing airfields in North Africa 
were ill-suited for the heavy invasion 
traffic. Of the French fields in the land- 
ing areas, only four had hard-surfaced 
runways: those at Port-Lyautey on the 
Moroccan coast north of Rabat; at Taf- 
araoui near Oran; at Maison Blanche, 
close to Algiers in the Eastern Task 
Force zone; and at Bone, fifty miles 
short of the Tunisian border. With its 
main strip and a crosswind leg, Ta- 
faraoui became the focus for incoming 
American aircraft of all description 

* Craven and Cale, Europe: TORCH to POINTBLANK, 
pp. 117-18; Hist 809th Engr Avn Bn; Rpt, Brig Gen 
S. C. Godfrey to CG, AAF, 4 Jan 43, sub; Report on 
Airdomes and Avn Engrs in North Africa, OCE 370.2 
(MTO), hereafter cited as Godfrey Rpt; Hist 2d Bn, 
21st Engr Avn Rgt, 8 Nov 42-1 Jul 43, Engr 21 HI, 
Maxwell AFB. 



belonging to Brig. Gen. James H. Doo- 
little's Twelfth Air Force, and the result- 
ing glut of planes on the field slowed 
operations to a crawl. When the sea- 
sonal rains commenced in late Novem- 
ber, everything in the dispersal areas 
off the runways sank into mud "like 
liquid reinforced concrete of bottom- 
less depth." 

In an attempt to give maneuvering 
room to some 285 mired planes, the 
Twelfth Air Force flew its B — 26 medi- 
ums to Maison Blanche, where the 
809th Engineer Aviation Battalion, leav- 
ing two detachments behind at Taf- 
araoui and other smaller dirt fields in 
the area, began work on 29 November 
on a second runway, taking up where 
the French builders of an intersecting 
runway to the main macadam strip had 
left off. The same insidious mud ham- 
pered operations; however, the engi- 
neers were able to lay gravel-clay taxi- 
ways and hardstands in a large dispersal 
area. 

German air resistance to further Al- 
lied advances into Tunisia also brought 
a radical change to the arrangement 
that confined American aviation con- 
struction to the area west of Algiers. 
When General K. A. N. Anderson de- 
clared on 4 December that a lack of air 
cover had cost him the opportunity to 
move further against the Germans, 
American aviation engineers were al- 
ready heading eastward in an attempt 
to bring Allied air power closer to the 
front lines. 

British efforts to construct airfields be- 
hind their advancing lines suffered even 
more from inadequate heavy equip- 
ment than did the American efforts. 
Beginning on 20 November, detach- 
ments of a British airdrome construc- 
tion unit attempted to build a fighter 



THE TUNISIAN CAMPAIGN 



87 



field in Tunisia in the neighborhood of 
Souk el Arba, eighty miles west of Tunis, 
but the December rains defeated them. 
Their Sommerfeld mat, well-suited to 
English sod fields, sank out of sight in 
the Tunisian mud, and pierced steel 
plank was in short supply in the theater. 
They had better success with the sandy 
soil nearby at Souk el Khemis, but the 
British still had too few fields to sup- 
port a concentrated aerial offensive 
against German strength in Tunisia. 4 
Early December marked the whole- 
sale departure of American aviation 
engineers from northwest Africa for 
sites in eastern Algeria. On 2 Decem- 
ber, acting on French advice that dry 
weather prevailed there, Brig. Gen. 
Donald A. Davison flew to Telergma, a 
village by a large bowl on a 3,500-foot- 
high plateau in the mountains south- 
west of Constantine. On the field guard- 
ed by French troops, Davison found a 
platoon of the 809th Engineer Avia- 
tion Battalion already working, having 
reached the prospective field by forced 
march from Maison Blanche. Another 
company of the battalion moved in by 
plane and truck, and, assisted by sev- 
eral hundred Algerians, the engineers 
scraped out a compacted earth runway 
that began handling B — 26 traffic just 
ten days after Davison's first visit. With 
this single runway, a well-drained strip 
of loam, caliche, and gravel, the 809th, 
the first American unit of its kind to 
work east of Algiers, began developing 
a complex of medium bomber fields in 
the Telergma area. 5 



1 Inlerv, A— 2 with Brig Gen Donald A. Davison, 1 
Jun 43, 142.052-38, 8 Jun 43, USAF Hist Div Ar- 
chives; Hist Sect, A AFC MTO, History of the Avia- 
tion Engineers in the MTO, 12 Jun 46, Maxwell AFB, 
hereafter cited as Avn Engrs in MTO; Godfrey Rpt. 

r ' Davison interv, 1 Jun 43; Avn Engrs in MTO, pp. 
12-14; Hist 809th Engr Avn Bn. 



Heavy bombers found a home far- 
ther south on the fringes of the Sahara 
at Biskra, a winter resort. Though Bisk- 
ra and Telergma lay close to rail lines, 
the disruption in French train control 
and traffic forced most supply to the 
bases, especially Biskra, to go by air. 
Accordingly, the engineer unit chosen 
to develop the Biskra base was the 
887th Airborne Engineer Aviation 
Company, its troops and light, air- 
transportable equipment carried to the 
site from Morocco, a thousand miles 
away, in fifty-six aircraft. Landing on 
13 December, the company completed 
two new fields of compacted earth for 
B— 17s and B — 24s in four days to give 
the heavies a dry toehold within easy 
striking range of the enemy. Appar- 
ently vindicating the faith placed in the 
airborne aviation engineer concept by 
its developers in Washington, the 887th's 
performance still could not redeem the 
failure of its sister company flown into 
Tebessa from Port-Lyautey to expand 
and improve advance fields at what 
became a main supply base in the drive 
into Tunisia. Here the 888th Airborne 
Engineer Aviation Company's midget 
bulldozers could do little in the rough 
terrain, and the company took two long 
weeks to carve out a single runway, 
though it was supposed to recondition 
dirt fields lying as far away as Gafsa, 
across the Tunisian border. Eventually 
the 814th Engineer Aviation Battalion 
took over the job. 6 

The aviation engineers shared their 
problems of lost and inadequate equip- 
ment with other engineer units but 



<; Unit Hists, 887th, 888th Abn Engr Cos, and 8 14th 
Engr Avn Bn; Wesley Frank Craven and James L. 
Cale, eds., "The U.S. Army Air Forces in World War 
II," vol. VII, Services Around the World (Chicago: Univer- 
sity of Chicago Press, 1958), pp. 249-50. 



88 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



wrestled with problems of command 
structure peculiar to them. From the 
outset it was not clear whether the 
Corps of Engineers or the Army Air 
Forces (AAF) would control the avia- 
tion engineers. Field service regulations 
for 1942 did not fix responsibility for 
building airfields in the theater of 
operations, but in October 1942 AFHQ 
gave the job to the engineer, Twelfth 
Air Force, with the ruling that the avia- 
tion engineers were "an organic part of 
the air force." Following the invasion, 
the Twelfth Air Force engineer, Col. 
John O. Colonna, assumed operational 
control of all the American aviation 
engineers in North Africa. In the con- 
solidation after the invasion, adminis- 
trative control of the aviation engineers 
passed to individual commanders of 
service areas established at Casablanca, 
Oran, and Constantine, subordinate, in 
turn, to the new XII Air Force Service 
Command (AFSC), of which Colonel 
Colonna was also the engineer. Chaf- 
ing under the division of control over 
the aviation engineers, Colonna saw to 
it that Twelfth Air Force issued orders 
for airfield construction directly to the 
constructing units without going through 
the service command. But the service 
command area commanders, in guard- 
ing their own prerogatives, frequently 
countermanded orders from Twelfth 
Air Force. The divided control created 
obvious and serious delays in construc- 
tion projects for the aviation engineers. 7 
On 30 December 1942, Brig. Gen. 
Thomas B. Larkin, commanding the 
newly established Mediterranean Base 
Section, proposed that all requests for 
new airfield construction be submitted 



to base section commanders through 
AFHQ and be carried out by base sec- 
tion engineers, arguing that logistical 
agencies should control all construction, 
including that of airfields. Colonna 
strongly opposed this stand and recom- 
mended that the aviation engineers be 
removed from the administrative con- 
trol of the service command and trans- 
ferred into the Twelfth Air Force. While 
conceding that Services of Supply (SOS) 
control might be feasible in a static 
situation, Colonna was convinced that 
base section control would not work in 
a fluid situation like that in North 
Africa. He also opposed a proposal 
General Davison made to General Eisen- 
hower on 13 February 1943 that all 
engineer troops, including aviation en- 
gineers, be placed under the chief en- 
gineer, AFHQ; Colonna pointed out 
that airfield construction was "intimate- 
ly associated with shifting strategic and 
tactical situations" and should be "di- 
rectly under the Air Force Comman- 
der." 8 

Davison's plan found no effective 
support. The activation on 18 Febru- 
ary of the Northwest African Air Forces 
(NAAF) under the command of Maj. 
Gen. Carl W. Spaatz with Colonna as 
aviation engineer provided an opportu- 
nity to keep airfield construction under 
the control of the Air Forces. In addi- 
tion, the fast-moving situation after the 
German breakthrough at Kasserine 
converted Davison to the principle of 
Air Forces control; early in March Davi- 
son joined Spaatz's staff as aviation 
engineer, with Colonna as his deputy. 

A growing concern in Washington 
lest the AAF should, in effect, detach 



7 AFHQ Opn Memo 27, as quoted in Avn Engrs in 
MTO. 



* Avn Engrs in MTO, p. 1 6. 



THE TUNISIAN CAMPAIGN 



89 



the aviation engineers from their or- 
ganic connection with the Corps of 
Engineers and thus from their adminis- 
trative subordination to Army Service 
Forces (ASF), the new name taken by 
the SOS on 12 March 1943, led to an 
ASF proposal in the spring of 1943 to 
abolish the aviation engineers and to 
reorganize all engineer construction 
under ASF. But the AAF was firm in 
opposing any such solution. Moreover, 
by April 1943 the AAF had become too 
important an element of the armed 
forces and its performance in North 
Africa too impressive a demonstration 
of its potential for successful opposi- 
tion on a matter that it held vital to its 
functions in a theater of war. The hotly 
contested argument reached a firm 
solution only at the end of 1943. 

In the closing two months of the cam- 
paign in North Africa, the aviation 
engineers improved and expanded the 
rear area construction and provided 
new fields, especially fighter fields, for 
swiftly changing tactical situations. For 
example, five fields the 814th Engineer 
Aviation Battalion built in the Sbeitla 
area were usable in seventy-two hours 
and complete in four days. By the end 
of March, with the arrival of 837th, 
838th, and 845th Engineer Aviation 
Battalions and the 3d Battalion of the 
21st Engineer Aviation Regiment, the 
American construction force in the the- 
ater amounted to nearly 9,000 troops, 
three times the number in the British 
Airdrome Construction Groups active 
around the Souk el Arba— Souk el 
Khemis area. With ten American battal- 
ions and two separate companies avail- 
able in North Africa, engineers estab- 
lished a first priority for fields behind 
the front, a secondary importance for 
the bomber fields in western Algeria 



and eastern Morocco. The new arrivals 
worked in the rear area but also were 
involved in transferring the large bomb- 
er base at Biskra, an untenable site in 
the heat and dust storms of the spring, 
to constantly expanding facilities at 
Telergma. The 814th carried most of 
the responsibility for forward airfield 
construction, though British engineers 
from Souk el Arba added their man- 
power to the projects, and in late April 
two platoons from the 21st Engineer 
Aviation Regiment scraped out a dry 
weather field at Djebel Abiod, on the 
coast north of Souk el Khemis and 
eighty miles west of Tunis. 9 

The arrival in Tunisia in the spring 
of heavy machinery necessary for air- 
field construction over and above the 
Table of Basic Allowance (TBA) of the 
aviation engineer battalions made pos- 
sible such accomplishments. Another 
important factor was a Northwest Afri- 
can Air Forces order of 5 March set- 
ting forth new and realistic specifica- 
tions for airfield construction. The new 
specifications called for the barest es- 
sentials—in the forward areas, one 
earth runway per field, with loop taxi- 
ways and dispersed hardstands. The 
directive also assumed that no build- 
ings would be required, that bomb and 
gasoline dump areas would be served 
by existing roads, and that occupying 
troops would provide dugouts and 
trenches. Construction shortcuts and 
heavy machinery used on a scale un- 
known in any other Army found their 
first combined application to aerial war- 
fare in the Tunisian campaign. Heavy 
bomber and fighter airfield construc- 
tion could keep pace with the move- 



'■' Davison Interv; Hist 2d Bn, 21st Engr Avn Rgt, 8 
Nov 42- 1 Jul 43. 



90 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



ment of the ground forces in a rapidly 
developing campaign. In May General 
Spaatz stressed the contribution of the 
aviation engineers to the impressive 
performance of the AAF in North 
Africa. He termed the Air Forces and 
its aviation engineers a team able to 
"work smoothly and efficiently during 
the stress of battle." 10 

The heavy equipment set the Ameri- 
can engineers apart from the British 
Airdrome Construction Groups in their 
achievements; even with 3,000 British 
airdrome engineers in Tunisia, their 
efforts remained concentrated around 
their two main RAF bases at Souk el 
Khemis and Souk el Arba, the complex 
there consisting of around a dozen 
fields. This compared with the Ameri- 
can construction of over a hundred 
fields throughout the theater. 11 

Their efficiency was all the more 
remarkable since the frustrating divi- 
sion of control over the aviation engi- 
neers continued until the end of the 
campaign in North Africa. The plan- 
ning, the preparation of construction 
standards, and the issuance of work 
directives were in the hands of the 
engineer, NAAF, but the execution of 
all engineer work for the Air Forces 
and the administration of aviation engi- 
neers was the responsibility of the engi- 
neer of the North African Air Service 
Command (NAASC), an NAAF subor- 
dinate command that came into being 
along with NAAF in February 1943. 
The dual command hampered the pro- 



"' A AFC MTO, Hist of Policies Affecting Avn Engrs 
in the Mediterranean Campaign, p. 22; Col. A. E. 
Harris, "Colonel Harris Reporting" [feature column], 
The Air Farce Engineer, no. 17 (November 1944), 15; 
Ltr, Spaatz to CO, AAF, 6 May 43, MTO Comd-Engr 
638.129, Jan-Jun 43, 900.3, EUCOM Engr files. 

" Craven and Cate, Europe: TORCH to POINT- 
BLANK, p. 170. 



curement of heavy equipment and 
spare parts. Orders had to be processed 
through the service command staff, 
causing delay and confusion, and the 
divided control interfered with replace- 
ment and rotation of personnel and 
promotion of officers. At times "the 
aviation engineer officers and men con- 
sidered themselves . . . neglected and 
forgotten troops not belonging to any 
particular command." 12 

The unsatisfactory command ar- 
rangements in North Africa were an 
object lesson to planners in England 
concerned with the employment of avi- 
ation engineers in the coming invasion 
of Europe. During the spring of 1943 
the planners undertook studies aimed 
at resolving problems of administration, 
discipline, and supply, and in August 
1943 Col. Rudolf E. Smyser, Jr., engi- 
neer of the Eighth Air Force, went to 
North Africa to study the command 
situation in the Mediterranean Theater 
of Operations (MTO). His observations 
confirmed his opinion that all engineer 
aviation units should be under the com- 
plete administrative as well as opera- 
tional control of a single agency subor- 
dinate only to the Air Forces, a conclu- 
sion that played an important part in 
the later creation of the IX Engineer 
Command in England. General Davison 
convinced Lt. Gen. Carl W. Spaatz of 
the necessity of setting up a separate 
aviation engineer command, and the 
XII Air Force Engineer Command, 
MTO (Provisional) — changed 1 Janu- 
ary 1944 to Army Air Forces Engineer 
Command, MTO (Provisional) — came 
into being. 13 

12 Avn Engrs in MTO, p. 19. 

13 Col R. E. Smyser, Jr., Origin of the IX Engineer 
[Air Force] Command; 1st Lt. Lloyd F. Latendresse, 
"Narrative History," The History of IX Engineer Com- 
mand (Wiesbaden, Germany, 1945), pp. I Iff. 



THE TUNISIAN CAMPAIGN 



91 




Colonel Smyser 



Tetroleum, Oil, and Lubricants Supply 

Engineer construction for POL sup- 
ply was of several types: pipelines from 
ship to shore, bulk storage tanks and 
connecting pipelines, and extensive 
lines with pumping units leading to- 
ward the front. In North Africa exist- 
ing port facilities had to be improved, 
tank farms had to be built at conve- 
nient points, and many miles of pipe- 
line had to be constructed. Initially, no 
centralized control for the distribution 
and use of POL projects existed in 
North Africa, for each task force of 
TORCH was responsible for its own POL 
supply. Confusion, duplication of ef- 
fort, and waste resulted. Gradually, 
early chaos gave way to an integrated 
system of control and the establishment 
of a common Allied POL pool from 
which products could be released to the 



British and American armed forces as 
well as to the French military and civil- 
ian agencies. 14 

The 2602d Engineer Petroleum Dis- 
tribution Company, which reached 
Oran on the D plus 3 convoy, immedi- 
ately went to work to rehabilitate and 
operate existing French POL facilities 
at the port. Next, the company installed 
a seven-mile-long, four-inch victaulic 
pipeline from the Victor Hugo Storage 
Depot at Oran to airfields at La Senia 
and Tafaraoui. The same convoy also 
brought fifty miles of four-inch pipe 
that had reached England just in time 
to be loaded for TORCH. Delayed for 
weeks by heavy rains, the engineers 
eventually erected bolted steel tanks at 
the airfields for aviation gasoline; they 
also installed feeder lines and dispens- 
ing racks to service Air Forces trucks. 
The available storage at La Senia 
amounted to 462,000 gallons, at 
Tafaraoui 651,000 gallons. Another 
four-inch line, from Arzew to Perre- 
gaux, furnished a truck convoy connec- 
tion with the airfields in the latter area. 
Such construction exemplified what was 
soon to be undertaken in other port 
areas in Algeria and Morocco. 15 

On 24 December 1942, a conference 
on petroleum supply, held at Algiers, 
determined the network of pipelines in 
Algeria and Tunisia. From the port of 
Philippeville a six-inch pipeline was to 
run to the heart of the airfield region 
in eastern Algeria, with bulk storage at 



M Rpt, Capt M. D. Altgelt to Lt Col S. A. Potter, Jr., 
CM, C&A Planning, OCE, SOS ETOUSA, covering 
trip to North Africa (POL Inspection). The paragraphs 
relating to administration in this section are largely 
based on this report. 

15 Ltr, Lt Col Cabel Gwathmey, Engr, MBS, to Engr, 
MTOUSA, 6 Dec 44; Engr MTOUSA file 679.11, 
Pipeline History, 1944 and 1945; Engr Sch Spec Text 
(ST-5-350-1), Military Pipeline Systems, 1950. 



92 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



Ouled Rahmoun and lateral four-inch 
lines from there west to the Telergma 
fields and east to Tebessa. Eventually, 
the planners envisaged extending the 
Tebessa pipeline branch east to the port 
of Sousse and southeast to the port of 
Sfax. The ports of Bizerte, Tabarka, 
and Tunis would also be used. 

Extensive pipeline construction got 
under way in earnest in February 1943, 
when two parallel four-inch lines were 
built from Philippeville tb Ouled 
Rahmoun, one of them a V-80 line 
for motor gasoline. 16 This project in- 
cluded plans for erecting bolted steel 
tanks for bulk storage at existing air- 
fields and for building a tanker unload- 
ing line and a tank farm at Philippeville. 
Execution involved coordinating the 
activities of American engineers, 
French Army contractors, and local 
labor, and assembling extensive and 
complicated equipment as well as ob- 
taining rights-of-way. The pipeline en- 
gineers had to supplement materials at 
Mediterranean Base Section (MBS) with 
additional stocks requisitioned from the 
Atlantic Base Section (ABS) and the 
Royal Engineers. 1 ' 

By 18 February pipe extended more 
than twenty miles, with construction 
actually complete for only some three 
miles. Then the work virtually halted 
until more pipe and other materials 
arrived in the forward area. The fate of 
the project hung on transporting bulky 
and easily damaged materials from the 
base sections in spite of severely lim- 



16 History of the Eastern Base Section, Jun— Sep 43. 

17 Memo, Engr, MBS, for Engr Pipeline Co (Sep) 
(Prov), 10 Jan 43, sub: Movement of Troops; Memo, 
Maj C. L. Lockett for Col Donald B. Adams, Engr, 
MBS, 14 Jan 43; Memo, Col Morris W. Gilland, XO, 
MBS, for Pipeline Co (Sep) (Prov), 10 Jan 43; all in 
Oil-Pipeline (Gen), vol. I, 679.1 1, MBS File. 



ited cargo space and enemy air and 
naval interference. To complete the 
system, additional materials had to be 
shipped by risky sea routes because of 
the bottlenecks in overland transpor- 
tation. 

The 2004th Engineer Petroleum Dis- 
tribution Company completed the proj- 
ect in mid-April, and on the sixteenth 
the first American tanker discharged its 
64,000-barrel cargo into storage tanks 
at Philippeville. Pumps took the aircraft 
fuel fifty-five miles through the pipe- 
line to Ouled Rahmoun. In this con- 
struction job alone the engineers could 
claim a solid share in neutralizing the 
enemy's air menace and hastening his 
final capitulation in North Africa. 

On the same day that gasoline first 
flowed to Ouled Rahmoun, the 702d 
Engineer Petroleum Distribution Com- 
pany began work on a second impor- 
tant pipeline, closer to the front. This 
line ran southeast from the port of 
Bone in Algeria to Souk el Arba, Tunisia, 
with a branch line to Souk el Khemis. 
The whole system, involving ninety 
miles of four-inch pipe and nine pump 
stations, was completed in a month. 
During construction, petroleum engi- 
neers had the help of the 144th Native 
Labor Company, a working force of 
uncertain value, which furnished an 
average of 148 men a day. 

Neither enemy action nor hostile 
natives impeded construction. The only 
necessary road work was that through 
mountains. Ample tools and supplies 
were on hand. Pipe had to be hauled 
an average of sixty-six miles, but the 
702d Engineer Company had a fleet of 
forty-five vehicles, including twenty-five 
2 1/2-ton trucks and ten pole trailers. 
The weather was cool, rainfall moder- 
ate. Enlisted men engaged in all phases 



THE TUNISIAN CAMPAIGN 



93 




Gasoline Storage at Port-Lyautey 



of the operation, including such skilled 
engineering jobs as coupling, testing, 
tying-in and connecting, and working 
on pump stations. Natives did work 
requiring no special skill or training, 
such as clearing and grading for the 
main line to Souk el Arba, stringing 
pipes, and ditching and backfilling. 

At the other extreme of the commu- 
nication line, in French Morocco, the 
Army Transport Command and the 
North African Training Comand at 
Marrakech in March 1943 estimated 
their combined need for gasoline to be 
800,000 to 1,200,000 gallons per 
month. Rail tank cars to haul this 
amount were urgently needed else- 
where, and the obvious solution to the 
problem was a pipeline from Casa- 



blanca to Marrakech. Since materials 
were locally available to build this sys- 
tem, including terminal storage at 
Marrakech, the engineers laid a four- 
inch line 160 miles long. Four-inch lines 
from Casablanca and Fedala also sup- 
plied airfields at Mediouna, Sale, and 
Port-Lyautey, and another line con- 
nected Casablanca and Fedala. The 
345th General Service Regiment, a unit 
that had no previous experience in 
building pipelines, did the work. 18 



IH Rpt on Pipeline, Bone to Souk el Arba, AFHQ 
Engr Sect, 21 Jul 43; Ltr, M, F. Grant, AG, ABS, to 
CG, SOS, NATOUSA, 13 Mar 43, sub: Pipeline to 
Marrakech, Oil-Pipeline (Gen), vol. I, 679.11, ABS 
file; Rgtl Jnl and Hist 345th Engr GS Rgt. 



94 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



Ground Support 

Before the Kasserine breakthrough, 
the total combat engineer force with II 
Corps was three divisional battalions 
serving with the 1st and 34th Infantry 
Divisions and the 1st Armored Division, 
and, as corps troops, the 19th Engineer 
Combat Regiment. During the three 
weeks between the German withdrawal 
from Kasserine and II Corps' attack on 
Gafsa, other engineer units joined II 
Corps: Company B of the 601st Engi- 
neer Camouflage Battalion, the 15th 
Engineer Combat Battalion (9th Infan- 
try Division), the 175th Engineer Gen- 
eral Service Regiment, the 5 1 8th Engi- 
neer Water Supply Company, and the 
62d Engineer Topographic Company. 
A few days after the 1 1 Corps' attack on 
Gafsa started, the 20th Engineer Com- 
bat Regiment arrived from Casablanca, 
followed late in March by a platoon of 
the 470th Engineer Maintenance Com- 
pany. Shortly before the Tunisian cam- 
paign ended, the 10th Engineer Com- 
bat Battalion (3d Infantry Division) also 
joined II Corps. 19 

Since the Allied forces were on the 
offensive during most of the Tunisian 
campaign, the most important engineer 
function was to provide and maintain 
roads over which motorized ground 
troops could roll and to keep these 
roads clear of enemy mines. This func- 
tion turned around in mid-February, 
when the Germans struck through the 
Faid and Kasserine Passes. At that time 
the engineers worked on roads leading 
to the rear, sowed mines in the path of 
the enemy, erected roadblocks, and 
fought as infantry. On the north, for 



example, the 109th Engineer Combat 
Battalion made possible the withdrawal 
of its parent 34th Infantry Division to 
Sbiba; on the south, the 19th Engineer 
Combat Reg iment fou ght as infantry 



,v Rpt of Engr Opns, Lt Col W. A. Carter, 1 1 Corps, 
15 Mar- 10 Apr, dated 1 May 43. 



at Kasserine. (Map 4)\ 

At daylight on 7 February the 109th 
Engineer Combat Battalion pulled into 
a bivouac near Maktar after a six-day 
trip through the mountains from 
Tlemcen, near Oran. A cold rain had 
changed intermittently to snow at night, 
and the lead trucks found the twisting 
clay roads into the bivouac area slip- 
pery with mud and clogged with bro- 
ken-down French vehicles. German air- 
craft strafed the end of the convoy, still 
on the road at daybreak. 

For a few days the battalion improved 
bivouac area roads and reconnoitered. 
The first task was to improve the road- 
net for troops holding the Pichon— 
Fondouk el Aouareb Pass area, a criti- 
cal opening where many thought the 
impending German attack would come. 
Engineer reconnaissance found a 35- 
mile trail across semi-desert flats, rock- 
ribbed ridges, and sand dunes from 
Sbiba east to El Ala that could be made 
passable for six-by-six trucks in a week. 
By 14 February the companies of the 
109th had spread out along the route. 
Men of Company C, responsible for the 
middle section of the road, discovered 
warm springs near their bivouac, and 
many had their first good bath in more 
than two weeks. 

On the night of 16 February, Maj. 
Vernon L. Watkins, the battalion exec- 
utive officer, carried alarming news 
over the rough route. German armor 
had cut the main road forward (Sbeitla— 
Hadjeb el Aioun) and, while the front 
could bend without serious loss, a break 
that allowed mobile enemy units into 




MAP 4 



96 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



sensitive rear areas could be disastrous. 
The engineers were to convert the trail 
leading west to Sbiba into a road the 
34th Infantry Division could use by 
noon the next day. 

Promptly at noon on the seventeenth 
the last large fill necessary to make the 
rough trail passable was in place, and 
two hours later the first divisional vehi- 
cle passed over it. Traffic stretched half 
the length of the road when rain made 
the fresh grades treacherous. By dark 
congestion was mounting. At trouble 
spots all along the road small parties of 
engineers waited with tractors, half- 
tracks, and winch-trucks, and through- 
out the night they pulled and shoved 
vehicles. Finally, about daybreak, the 
division reached new defensive posi- 
tions near Sbiba, where the tired, 
drenched engineers found many other 
pressingjobs waiting for them: digging 
gun emplacements, laying mines, erect- 
ing wire, building supply and access 
roads, and freeing stuck vehicles. 20 

At Kasserine, the 1,200 men of the 
19th Engineer Combat Regiment 
formed the nucleus of a force defend- 
ing a road leading northwest to Te- 
bessa. The force included an infantry 
battalion, three artillery batteries, and 
a tank destroyer battalion — about 2,000 
men. The 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, 
defended the road leading north to 
Thala. 

Since their arrival in Tunisia on 6 
January, the 19th Engineers had 
worked almost exclusively on improv- 
ing and maintaining corps supply roads 
into divisional areas. When the German 
attack began, one company was still in 
the Gafsa area with Task Force Raff, 



Hist 109th Engr Bn, 2 Jan- 15 May 43. 



paratroopers with whom they had been 
operating for several weeks. Another 
company tunneled bombproof shelters 
for II Corps headquarters into a hill- 
side near Bekkaria. The rest of the 
regiment, bivouacked near Bou Cheb- 
ka, maintained II Corps roads leading 
out of Tebessa toward the front. 

On 16 February, well before dawn, 
the 19th Engineers began a 3 1/2-hour 
move into Kasserine Pass. Fog and rain 
slowed the column, but at 0530 the regi- 
ment reached an assembly point one 
mile west of the pass, where the regi- 
mental commander selected defensive 
positions. The men spent that day and 
the next digging in and laying mines 
across their front, interrupting work 
long enough on the seventeenth to 
cover the withdrawal of 1st Armored 
Division units. Fog and intermittent 
rains that had enveloped the battlefield 
for several days continued. 

On the evening of 17 February, Lt. 
Edwin C. Dryden of the 19th Engineers 
received orders to supervise the instal- 
lation of a minefield in front of an 
infantry battalion's position. Along with 
two noncoms, he loaded a truck with 
mines and proceeded to Headquarters, 
Company C, 26th Infantry, arriving 
after midnight. At the infantry com- 
mand post the engineers found no 
work detail ready to emplace the mines, 
nor anyone who knew where the mines 
were to go or what part they were to 
play in the defense. In the end, the 
engineer lieutenant, who had never 
seen the terrain in daylight, had to 
select the site and instruct a makeshift 
work party in laying and arming the 
mines. Work began after 0330. The 
light entrenching tools of the infantry 
proved useless in the rocky ground, and 
in order to finish by daylight the work 



THE TUNISIAN CAMPAIGN 



97 



party had to leave the mines unburied, 
strung across the road from a hill on 
one side to an embankment on the 
other. 

Enemy artillery fire started to fall on 
the American positions at Kasserine on 
18 February. Engineers from Company 
A, 19th Engineers, had begun to grade 
a lateral road across the rear of the 
defenses, but the enemy took the bull- 
dozer under fire and the grading had 
to be abandoned. That evening the II 
Corps commander, Maj. Gen. Lloyd R. 
Fredendall, instructed Col. Alexander 
N. Stark, Jr., commander of the 26th 
Infantry, to "Go to Kasserine right away 
and pull a Stonewall Jackson. Take over 
up there." Colonel Stark assumed com- 
mand of a provisional force (Task Force 
Stark) early on 19 February, about the 
time the first German probe entered 
the pass. This initial thrust turned back, 
and the rest of the morning passed 
while the enemy reinforced. During the 
early afternoon several more compa- 
nies of American infantry and a few 
tanks arrived in Kasserine, some of 
them before the Germans renewed 
their attack in midafternoon. 

About 1600 the enemy's third attack 
of the day drove Company D, 19th 
Engineers, from its positions. A coun- 
terattack failed to dislodge the enemy 
troops, and the day ended with the 
engineer positions seriously weakened 
but still holding. A French 75-mm. bat- 
tery was in position to support the 
engineers, but no heavier American 
105s. 

The Germans attacked again before 
dawn, falling mainly on the 26th In- 
fantry. When the infantry positions 
collapsed, the engineers used reserves 
gathered for a counterattack to protect 
an exposed left flank, but the leverage 



exerted on the 19th Engineer's exposed 
flank soon proved too great. German 
infantry, infiltrating behind well-directed 
artillery fire, took over the rest of the 
Company D positions and then drove 
back Company E. The regimental com- 
mand post had to move, but the Ger- 
mans brought the new position under 
machine-gun fire and the defenses 
quickly crumbled. Company F man- 
aged to keep control of its platoons until 
late afternoon, but the rest of the engi- 
neers made their way to the rear as best 
they could as platoons, squads, and 
individuals. When the regiment assem- 
bled again, it counted its losses in the 
three-day battle at 11 killed, 28 
wounded, and 88 missing. 

As the members of the provisional 
force, beaten and bloodied, found their 
way to the rear, few probably knew 
what they had accomplished. Field Mar- 
shal Erwin Rommel was operating on a 
tight time schedule, for Montgomery 
would soon fall on German positions in 
southern Tunisia. The rebuff at Sbiba 
and the delay at Kasserine gave II 
Corps time to assemble the strength to 
stop the German-Italian Panzer Army a 
few miles north along the road to Thala. 

Analyzing the preparation and con- 
duct of the defense at Kasserine, Col. 
Anderson T. W. Moore, commanding 
the 19th Engineers, pointed out seri- 
ous defects. Foxholes and gun emplace- 
ments had not been dug deep enough; 
few alternate positions had been pre- 
pared; barbed wire was delivered late 
and used little; and leadership and con- 
trol left much to be desired. But the 
engineers had performed creditably for 
a partially trained unit. The 19th Engi- 
neers had not even completed rifle 
training before going overseas, and 
only one man in the regiment was known 



98 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



to have been in combat before. Their 
experience at Kasserine underscored a 
lesson taught repeatedly in Tunisia: 
engineer units sent to meet German vet- 
erans in combat required hard, realis- 
tic training. 21 

One of the most persistent irritations 
for engineer officers was the use of 
their troops in other than engineer 
capacities. Standard doctrine permitted 
the use of engineers as fighting men 
under certain conditions, but in North 
Africa the procedure and the criteria 
for attaching engineer units to fighting 
units were hardly consistent or uni- 
formly applied. Engineer units fre- 
quently undertook nonessential jobs 
simply because they were at hand. As a 
result, essential engineer tasks went 
undone. Furthermore, attachment some- 
times tied up valuable pieces of engi- 
neer equipment where they were not 
needed. The II Corps engineer, Col. 
William A. Carter, Jr., carried on his 
arguments against using engineers with- 
out weighing the disadvantages in tak- 
ing them away from support duties, 
especially in offensive operations. By 
the end of the campaign, only one of 
the four American divisions resorted 
to attaching engineer troops. 22 



21 Hist Record of the 19th Engr Rgt, 20 Oct 42- 1 
Oct 43; Hist 19th Engr Rgt, pi. A, Prior to Arrival in 
Italy, 1944-45; Memorandum of Combat Operations 
of Engineer Troops Under Second U.S. Army Corps, 
prepared by Lt Col Carter, Corps Engr, and given to 
Gen Noce during recent trip to Africa, dated 24 Mar 
43, African Campaign, EAC files; Eisenhower Dis- 
patch, pp. 24—36; Erwin Rommel, The Rommel Papers, 
ed., B. H. Liddell Hart (London: Collins, 1953), pp. 
400, 404; Opns Rpts, 26th Inf Rgt, 11 Nov 42-14 
Apr 43. 

22 Brig Gen D. O. Elliott to CofEngrs, Washington, 
D.C., 19 Jul 43, Rpt on U.S. Engrs in the Tunisian 
Campaign, Doc 1547, hereafter cited as Elliott Rpt, 
19 Jul 43; Annex 16, Lt Col H. C. Rowland, 20 Apr 
43, in AAR, 1st Engr C Bn, 8 Nov 42-14 Mar 43; 5th 
Ind, HQ, NATOUSA, 30 Oct 45 to AAR, 16th Armd 



After the Germans retired from Kas- 
serine, many of the roads in the II 
Corps sector were virtually impassable. 
The clay surfaces, softened by frequent 
rains, had deteriorated rapidly under 
the heavy military traffic. The enemy 
had little or no hope of regaining this 
area and left behind scattered mines, 
cratered roads, and demolished bridges. 
Fortunately, there was little of value to 
destroy. New roads could be built eas- 
ily across the central Tunisian plateau, 
and ruined bridges could be bypassed 
by fords or culverted fills, for there 
were not perennial rivers to cross. The 
rains had done more damage than the 
enemy. 

Engineer road work on a consider- 
able scale was necessary before II Corps 
could launch its attack through Gafsa. 
To move the 1st Infantry Division and 
the 1st Armored Division in this of- 
fensive, ninety-five miles of trail had to 
be made into two-way dirt roads. Grad- 
ing these roads was no great problem. 
Using two D-7 bulldozers, two R-4 
bulldozers, and two graders, Company 
C, 19th Engineers, with one platoon of 
Company B attached, in three days 
improved a rough fifteen-mile road to 
the last infantry outpost east of Thelepte 
and graded twenty-four miles of new 
road from there joining the Sbeitla- 
Gafsa road. Other units made similar 
progress. The main problem was keep- 
ing existing roads open in the heavy 
rains. 

During the attack through Gafsa (17 
March— 10 April) corps engineers had 
341 miles of other road to keep open, 
including a 140-mile bituminous mac- 
adam route from Ain Beida to Gafsa 



Engr Bn, 3 Sep 43; Memo, Lt Col W. A. Carter, II 
Corps Engr, for Engr, AFHQ, 23 May 43. 



THE TUNISIAN CAMPAIGN 



99 



and five dirt roads that required con- 
stant maintenance. As divisional com- 
bat engineers became involved in mine 
work, they had little time left for road 
maintenance, and that task fell to the 
corps engineers. At this time the 20th 
Engineer Combat Regiment made the 
long trip from French Morocco to aid 
the 19th Engineers. The 175th Gen- 
eral Service Regiment was also sent in- 
to the II Corps area to help. 23 

Again, during II Corps' attack on 
Bizerte in late April and early May, 
road work was vitally important, al- 
though once the rainy season was past, 
maintenance was less a factor. The 
corps roadnet consisted of about 100 
miles of rough, water-bound macadam 
and about 260 miles of dirt roads, some 
little more than cart tracks. Offsetting 
the advantage of dry weather was the 
hilly terrain. Here, enemy mines and 
demolitions were more effective because 
the avenues of approach ran through 
the narrow valleys, and the bridges in 
these valleys could not be so easily 
bypassed. The attack in the north 
avoided the valleys when possible and 
generally followed the high ground. 
Some seventy-six miles of new roads 
were built from the main supply route 
to pack mule trails to reach infantry 
positions on the hills. Bypasses around 
demolished bridges accounted for some 
of this mileage. 



23 Rpi of Engr Opns, Carter, II Corps, 15 Mar- 10 
Apr, dated 1 May 43; File, ENGP— 19-0.3 (23568) 
Master Historical Record - 19th Engr C Gp, Oct 42- 
Jan 44, HRS, DRB, AGO; File, 301 -Eng-0.3 (22313) 
AAR, 1st Engr C Bn, 8 Nov 42-14 Mar 43, HRS, 
DRB, AGO; Rpt, HQ, II Corps (Patton) to AG, USA, 
Washington, D.C. thru 18 Army Gp, 15 Mar— 10 Apr 
43, dated 10 Apr 43, Bx 49768 KCRC; Capt George 
E. Horn, The Twentieth Engineers, 1 |ul 43. 

24 Rpt, Lt Col W. A. Carter, II Corps Engr, 28 May 
43, sub: Rpt of Engr Opns II Corps, 22 Apr-8 May. 



While no major, radical changes in 
engineer TBA resulted from experi- 
ence in Tunisia, some additions ap- 
peared eminently desirable. For ex- 
ample, a definite need developed that 
each combat engineer battalion have at 
least one of the large D— 7 bulldozers. 
More road graders and dump trucks 
would have proved useful in certain 
situations, but it was debatable whether 
this was a matter of changing the Table 
of Basic Allowances or of providing 
more Class IV equipment. One of the 
most needed Class IV items was the 
power shovel, for there was little point 
in providing a combat engineer regi- 
ment fifty-four dump trucks to haul 
road fill unless the means existed for 
providing crushed rock and for load- 
ing it on the trucks. Road maintenance 
took up a disproportionate share of the 
combat engineers' time in Tunisia be- 
cause mechanical means for loading fill 
were lacking. The only exception was a 
civilian-owned steam shovel the 19th 
Engineer Combat Regiment put into 
service. In the final days of the cam- 
paign the 20th Engineer Combat Regi- 
ment also made good use of a shovel — 
probably the same one. If so, only one 
shovel was available to the combat engi- 
neers in all Tunisia. 

Central and southern Tunisia had 
wet-weather wadis aplenty but no per- 
manent streams. Except after very heavy 
rains, combat unit vehicles could cross 
wet-weather streams as soon as engi- 
neers bulldozed dry fords or built by- 
passes around demolished bridges. In 
northern Tunisia, on the other hand, 
there were permanent streams, and 
bridge building was an important engi- 



25 Ibid.; Elliott Rpt, 19 Jul 43; AAR, 16th Armd 
Engr Bn, 3 Sep 43. 



100 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



neer activity. During this campaign the 
British Bailey bridge first proved its tac- 
tical value to Americans. 

During the closing days of the cam- 
paign, the 9th Infantry Division em- 
ployed a compromise plan that proved 
satisfactory. Under this plan the regi- 
mental combat teams (RCTs) had the 
support of one company of combat 
engineers each, with each company sup- 
porting its combat team in three eche- 
lons. In the vanguard, a small group of 
reconnaissance engineers accompanied 
forward infantry elements. Not far 
behind, a platoon of combat engineers 
cleared mines and prepared paths over 
which mules carried rations and ammu- 
nition to the front. The rest of the engi- 
neer company helped the artillery to 
displace forward; built roads, and 
cleared minefields. The 3d Regimental 
Combat Team had only one platoon of 
combat engineers attached; being in 
reserve, this team moved less than the 
others. The rest of the engineer battal- 
ion remained under division control, 
to be used where most needed. 26 

Engineer combat battalion manpower 
increased from 634 to 745 in the years 
before 1942. In 1943 Army Ground 
Forces redesigned the American infan- 
try division, reducing its organic engi- 
neer support to a battalion of 647 men, 
and cut the armored engineer battal- 
ion by 40 percent. North African expe- 
rience argued for substracting the 
bridge company formerly assigned to 
engineer battalions, especially in ar- 
mored divisions. Though highly enthu- 
siastic about its Bailey bridge sets, the 
16th Armored Engineer Battalion car- 



2e Lt. Col. Frederick A. Henney, "Combat Engineers 
in North Africa, Pt. II, Operations in Tunisia," The 
Military Engineer, XXXVI, no. 220 (February 1944), 
40-42. 



ried the equipment for three months 
in central Tunisia before putting it to 
hard use in the closing weeks of the 
campaign. The NATOUSA engineer 
also found that he rarely had enough 
reconnaissance forces either at corps 
level or below. The new organization 
gave each combat battalion a 22-man 
reconnaissance section equipped with 
three SCR— 511 portable radios, bino- 
culars, and compasses. 27 

Mine Clearing 

As the Germans withdrew through 
the Kasserine Pass and Sbeitla to the 
Eastern Dorsal, clear skies enabled Al- 
lied planes to harry their retreat. On 
the ground American pressure bogged 
down, partly because at Kasserine Amer- 
ican troops encountered "mines and 
demolitions on such a scale as to sug- 
gest a new weapon in warfare." Behind 
a covering screen of thousands of mines, 
the enemy broke contact and withdrew 
unmolested by ground troops. 28 

The engineers were as ill prepared 
as the infantry for mine warfare, al- 
though they had responsibility for mine 
laying and mine clearing. One engineer 
combat company commander, who "had 
never seen a German mine, picture, or 
model before entering combat in Tu- 
nisia" had to rely on one noncom, who 
had attended a British mine school in 
the theater, to train company officers 
and key men only a few days before his 
unit encountered its first live minefield. 29 

27 Greenfield, Palmer, and Wiley, The Organization 
of Ground Combat Troops, pp. 309, 331, 374, 446; Elliott 
Rpt, 19 Jul 43; AAR, 16th Armd Engr Bn, 3 Sep 43; 
Ltr, Brig Gen D. O. Elliott to AGF Board (G-3 
Training) AFHQ, 8 Jul 43, sub: G— 4 Engr Questions 
for AGF Observers, 071.01 AGF file, Jul 43 -Dec 44. 

2B Eisenhower Dispatch, p. 36. 

2 " Ltr, Lt Col Webb (190th Engr C Bn), 23 Apr 56; 
Ltr, Lt Col Wallace (15th Engr C Bn), 17 Jan 56. 



THE TUNISIAN CAMPAIGN 



101 



Antitank mines were customarily 
placed in staggered rows, checkerboard 
fashion, spaced far enough apart to 
avoid sympathetic detonation. They 
were laid according to specific pattern 
for two reasons: an enemy tank or other 
vehicle missing mines in the first row 
would stand a good chance of coming 
to grief on the second, third, or fourth 
row; and, when necessary, friendly 
troops could more easily locate and lift 
mines laid in a pattern. This second 
consideration was important, for'armed 
mines played no favorites. Minefields 
had to be charted and marked with 
care. 

During their retreat in Tunisia the 
Germans were hardly concerned with 
having to relocate mines, so they scat- 
tered them indiscriminately anywhere 
Allied troops and vehicles were likely 
to travel. Since Allied trucks and motor- 
ized equipment were confined mainly 
to roads or to occasional stretches off 
the road, the Germans mined shoulders, 
particularly where the roads narrowed; 
they also mined road junctions, likely 
turnouts, probable bivouac areas, and 
wadi crossings. The Germans used many 
tricks to deceive and slow down mine 
detection teams: they booby-trapped 
some mines and buried others two and 
three deep; around some they scattered 
bits of metal that Allied mine detector 
operators had to mark for investigation. 
One of the enemy's most effective tricks 
was to bury mines too deep to be de- 
tected. In this way scores of trucks could 
pass safely over a road and then, when 
ruts became deep enough, a mine would 
explode. Such methods had a heavy 
psychological effect on attacking troops 
and delayed the advance more effec- 
tively than pattern mining could have. 
In such circumstances, even though 



only a few mines might have been laid 
in some areas, many miles of roadway 
had to be swept. All antitank mines had 
to be handled as if booby-trapped, even 
though only a small percentage actu- 
ally were. And no matter how slowly or 
methodically mine clearance teams 
worked, they could never guarantee a 
clear route. 

The land mines that the engineers 
had to deal with fell into two categories, 
antitank (AT) and antipersonnel (AP). 
AT mines were generally pressure- 
activated — a man's weight would not 
detonate them, but that of any military 
vehicle would. They contained several 
pounds of explosives which could de- 
molish a jeep or immobilize a tank by 
breaking a track and damaging bogie- 
wheels. AP mines were smaller charges 
of explosives set for the unwary. Acti- 
vated by sensitive push-pull, pressure, 
or pressure-release devices, they re- 
quired much more delicate handling 
then AT mines. Varieties of these two 
types, and the subterfuges with which 
they could be employed, were endless. 

The antitank Teller mine ("plate" in 
German) was the mine the Germans 
used most in Tunisia, although they 
also employed others of Italian, French, 
and Hungarian manufacture as well as 
captured British and American mines. 
Four different models of the Teller 
mine found in North Africa had the 
same general characteristics: disc 



30 II Corps Intel Info Summary 2, 18 Jan 43; Lir, Lt 
Col Ellsworth I. Davis lo XO, The Engr Bd, 26 Apr 
43, sub: Report of Trip to UK and N A with Ref to AT 
Mines, Demolitions and Airborne Engrs; Lir, Lt Ralph 
M. Ingersoii to CG, Engr Amphib Cmd, 14 Apr 43, 
sub: Memorandum on Opns with AT 8c AP Mines in 
the Tunisian Campaign, African Campaign file, EAC; 
Military Attache Rpt 59181, MID WDGS, sub: Battle 
of Tunisia, 22 July 1943, AFHQ Engr Intel Summa- 
ries beginning Jan 43. 



102 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 




GERMAN S-MlNE. The activated canister burst from the earth and fired over 300 steel 
pellets in all directions. 



shaped, about a foot in diameter, three 
to four inches thick with a zinc or steel 
jacket encasing eleven pounds of TNT, 
and a total weight of about twenty 
pounds. Teller mines had three igniter 
wells, one on top for a shear-pin type 
pressure igniter and others on the side 
and bottom for more sensitive and 
more varied booby-trap igniters. These 
extra wells, and the igniters to fit them, 
gave the mines a built-in antilifting fea- 
ture that no American mines could 
match. American engineers had to as- 
sume that every Teller mine was booby- 
trapped. 

The German antipersonnel "S" mine 
was a particularly clever innovation. 
Nicknamed "Bouncing Betty" by Brit- 
ish troops, the mine's activation deto- 



nated a small black powder charge, 
throwing a grapeshot canister out of 
the earth. Exploding at waist or chest 
level, the canister discharged a murder- 
ous hail of steel ball bearings in all 
directions. 

The Germans made widespread use 
of booby traps with blocks of explosives 
rigged to houses, equipment, or even 
bodies — anything curious or unwary 
troops were likely to touch, move, or 
walk on. AFHQ engineer intelligence 
bulletins promptly circulated informa- 
tion on various types of reported booby 
traps, sometimes before they could be 
confirmed. For example, reports of a 
water bottle that exploded when the 
cork was withdrawn, a German whistle 
that exploded when blown, and a booby- 



THE TUNISIAN CAMPAIGN 



103 




ITALIAN BAR MINES. The opened casing shows the simple pressure detonating device. 



trapped cake of soap were published 
throughout the command; how many 
others — real and unreal — circulated by 
word of mouth can only be conjec- 
tured. 31 

In Tunisia a large part of the combat 
engineers' time was given to laying, 
lifting, and clearing mines, often to the 
neglect of other work such as road 
maintenance. The 16th Armored Engi- 
neer Battalion, for example, spent vir- 
tually half its time on mine work, as did 
combat engineers with infantry divi- 
sions. To compensate, corps-level engi- 
neers had to push their road mainte- 
nance and minefield clearance work 
well forward into divisional areas. Al- 



though the engineers were better pre- 
pared to deal with mines than was the 
infantry, engineer training in the sub- 
ject left much to be desired. 32 

While the engineers often had to use 
the slow and tedious method of prob- 
ing with bayonets for mines, they gen- 
erally relied on the magnetic mine detec- 
tor (SCR— 625) for speed on long 
stretches of roads, in bivouac areas, and 
on airfield sites. The detector was a 7 
1/2-pound instrument consisting of a 
set of earphones and a search plate 



31 AFHQ Engr Intel Summaries 1, Jan 43, to 14, 
May 43. 



yi Ltr, Ingersoll, 14 Apr 43, sub: Memo on Opns 
with AT & AP Mines; AAR, 16th Armd Engr Bn, 3 
Sep 43; U.S. Engrs in Tunisian Campaign, Engr Sect, 
AFHQ, 19 Jul 43; Rpt, Maj Gen W. H. Walker to CG, 
AGF, 1 2 Jun 43, sub: Report of Visit to North African 
Theater of Opns, 319.1/84, AGF file (F.O.), binder 1, 
Observer Rpts, 1 |an-20 Jul 43. 



104 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS. THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



mounted on a wooden disc at the end 
of a six-foot handle. Dry cell batteries 
induced a magnetic field around the 
search plate and produced a low hum 
in the operator's earphones. The sol- 
dier "swept" a wide arc before him with 
the instrument. In the presence of 
metal buried less than a foot deep, the 
hum in the operator's ears continually 
increased in pitch until it became a 
near-shriek when the detector was di- 
rectly above a mine. Engineers in the 
mine-clearing party marked the spot, 
and other engineers, following behind, 
unearthed and deactivated the mines. 
They dug out but did not deactivate 
mines unfamiliar or suspected of being 
booby-trapped. They sometimes placed 
a block of explosive beside these mines 
and relied on sympathetic detonation; 
more often they attached a length of 
wire and pulled the mines out of their 
holes from a safe distance. 33 

The SCR— 625 was a valuable piece 
of equipment when it worked but had 
two serious shortcomings: it was not 
waterproof and was quite fragile. The 
instrument shorted out in wet weather 
and required such careful handling and 
delicate tuning that normally about 20 
percent were broken or out of adjust- 
ment. In spite of these drawbacks, after 
Kasserine Pass the magnetic detector 
became one of the most sought-after 
pieces of equipment in the Army. The 
16th Armored Engineer Battalion urged 
that the allocation be increased from 



Ltr, Ingersoll, 14 Apr 43, sub: Memo on Opns 
with AT & AP Mines. For background on the develop- 
ment of this detector, see Coll, Keith, and Rosenthal, 

JLhe—Larps of Engineers: Troops and Equipment, pp. 

154—561 Rpt of Engr Opns, Carter, II Corps, 15 
Mar- 10 Apr, dated 1 May 43; Rpt, Maj Gen C. P. 
Hall to CG, AGF, 24 Apr 43, sub: Report of Visit to 
NATO, 319.1/84, AGF file (F.O), binder I, Observer 
Rpts, I Jan -20 Jul 43. 




The SCR-625 Mine Detector in action 
on a Tunisian road. 

eighteen to seventy-one. Experience in 
Tunisia prompted most engineer units 
to ask that one detector be provided 
per squad, with some provision for a 
battalion reserve. 34 

Experiments conducted in the Medi- 
terranean theater as well as in the United 
States sought to find a faster way of 
detecting or eliminating mines, particu- 
larly under fire. The demand arose for 
larger magnetic detectors, mounted on 
vehicles, that could sweep long sections 



54 Ltr, Ingersoll, 14 Apr 43, sub: Memo on Opns 
with AT 8c AP Mines; AAR, I6th Arnid Engr Bn, 3 
Sep 43; U.S. Engrs in Tunisian Campaign, Engr Sect, 
AFHQ, 19 Jul 43. 



THE TUNISIAN CAMPAIGN 



105 



of road rapidly. Engineers of I Armored 
Corps in French Morocco experimented 
with mechanical means, explosives, and 
fire to make gaps in pattern minefields. 
They found that tanks could push long 
sections of explosive-filled pipe across 
a minefield and that when detonated 
these "snakes" cleared a path wide 
enough for a tank to pass through. Ban- 
galore torpedoes and nets made of 
primacord also tested well. But mine- 
clearing explosions alerted the enemy, 
and bulky devices occupied a great deal 
of shipping space. Nearby concussions 
also made more sensitive the unex- 
ploded mines which the snakes left 
alongside their path. Engineer units 
carried snakes in Tunisia but did not 
use them to blow gaps in minefields. 35 
Two mechanical means of detection 
and detonation offered some promise. 
The British Eighth Army developed the 
Scorpion — lengths of chain attached to 
a revolving axle suspended well in front 
of a tank. As the tank moved forward, 
the chain flailed the ground. The Scor- 
pion exerted enough ground pressure 
to explode mines and could absorb at 
least the initial concussions; however, it 
also created clouds of dust and destroyed 
the chain flails quickly. The machine 
moved about one thousand yards into 
an active minefield before the blasts 
took so many links from the ends of 
the chains that they no longer struck 
the ground. The enemy could counter- 
act the flails with wire entanglements, 
and the whirling chains often activated 
delayed-action mines that destroyed fol- 
lowing vehicles. In the end, the only 
antimine innovation that American engi- 



So Data from I Armd Corps, 26 Jun 43, Engr Sch 
Lib, 7641; see Coll, Keith, and Rosenthal. T he Corps of 
Engineers: Troops and Equipment, \pp. 476ffi1 for efforts 
in the United States to develop mine-clearing devices. 



neers employed in Tunisia was a "pilot 
vehicle" the 16th Armored Engineer 
Battalion and 1st Armored Division 
ordnance personnel developed, an M— 3 
tank with concretes-filled, spiked steel 
drums mounted in front. Its purpose 
was to find the forward edge of a mine- 
field without needless searching. Used 
twice during the last days of the cam- 
paign, the vehicle revealed a serious 
defect — the mines demolished the rol- 
ler. The first time the engineers em- 
ployed the vehicle they replaced the 
roller under fire, but the second time 
they had to withdraw. 36 

American engineer officers in March 
and April 1943 studied British mine- 
field clearing techniques and other 
mine warfare methods. Training teams 
from the British Eighth Army, made 
up of men with two years of experi- 
ence in mine warfare, provided valu- 
able aid. Before the major attack dur- 
ing the third week of April, about forty 
American officers and more than a 
hundred noncoms attended a mine 
school that the British First Army con- 
ducted with instructors brought to Tuni- 
sia from the British Eighth Army. Other 
mine schools sprang up. Experienced 
engineers taught the less experienced, 
and they trained instructors from in- 
fantry, artillery, and other units. Fifth 
Army established a Mine Warfare School 
at Ain Fritissa that drew a few instruc- 
tors from the British Eighth Army. 

AFHQ Engr Intel Summary 14, May 43; Rpt, 
Carter, 28 May 43, sub: Rpt of Engr Opns II Corps, 
22 Apr-8 May; Address by Col Edwin P. Lock, Staff 
and Faculty, Engr Sch, Ft. Belvoir, Va., 31 May 43, 
"Reduction of Obstacles and Fortifications," ETOUSA 
MAS file, Assault Trng Ctr Conf. For efforts of the 
Ordnance Department to develop a satisfactory mine 
exploder, see Constance M. Green, Harry C. Thomson, 
and Peter C. Roots, The Ordnance Department: Planning 
Munitions far War, United States Army in World War 
II (Washington, 1955), pp. 387-94. 



106 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 




Scorpion Tank Crew Loading Bangalore Torpedoes 



One of the prime difficulties in con- 
ducting mine training was obtaining 
deactivated enemy mines. Although 
thousands of German and Italian mines 
were deactivated in the combat zone, 
they were scarce in the rear areas. 
There were exceptions. Some mines 
were sent to England for training pur- 
poses, and Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark's 
private plane ferried some from the 
front to the Fifth Army mine school. 
But most mine training had to be car- 
ried out without enemy mines. The 
main reason was the danger involved, 
which the theater command believed 
outweighed the advantages. Besides 
the normal hazards of handling un- 
familiar varieties of live explosives, ex- 
plosive sensitivity increased with age. In 



one incident on 30 March 1943, a 109th 
Engineer Combat Battalion truck 
loaded with 450 neutralized mines ex- 
ploded, killing an entire twelve-man 
squad. 37 

German patterns of mining contin- 
ued superior to American in most re- 
spects, as did the German system of 
charting and recording minefields. 
Where American units kept sketchy 
records or none at all in local unit files, 
German engineers carefully plotted 
each mine barrier and sent records to a 
central office in Germany. 



37 Ltr, Ingersol), 14 Apr 43, sub: Memo on Opns 
with AT & AP Mines; Ltr, Lt Col E. 1. Davis, 26 Apr 
43, Rpt of Trip to UK and NA; Ltr, Lt Col John A. 
Chambers, 5 Apr 56; Hist I09th Engr C Bn Tunisian 
Campaign, 2 Jan— 15 May 43. 



THE TUNISIAN CAMPAIGN 



107 



The SCR— 625's noncollapsible han- 
dle forced the operator to stand upright, 
often in sight of an enemy covering the 
minefield with small-arms fire. What- 
ever reliability the detector promised 
for the future, it was useless in finding 
the German nonmetallic Schu mines, 
encased in wooden boxes, that appeared 
in small numbers in North Africa and 
would become more plentiful on the 
Continent. Out of their experience the 
engineers also demanded a new anti- 
tank mine that would do real damage 
to enemy armor; the German Teller, 
with twice the explosives of the Ameri- 
can models, usually destroyed the hull 
and undercarriage of any tank striking 
it, while the American mine would only 
damage a track, leaving a salvageable 
vehicle. 38 

The magnetic mine detector, the 
bayonet, and a sharp, suspicious eye 
were the antimine measures that engi- 
neers relied upon most in Tunisia. 
From late February, when the Germans 
fell back to the Eastern Dorsal, until 13 
April, American engineers found over 
39,000 mines. In the area from Thala 
and Bekkaria through Kasserine to 
Sbeitla and along the road from 
Thelepte to Gafsa mine detection par- 
ties removed 10,750 enemy mines, and 
in the Gafsa area they found 8,700 
more. Around El Guettar they lifted 
12,450 and found 7,300 more in the 
Maknassy-Sened area. 39 



" s WD Pub, "Lessons Learned from the Tunisian 
Campaign," 15 Oct 43; AAR, 16th Armd Engr Bn, 3 
Sep 43; I Armd Corps, Data file, 26 Jun 43; AFHQ 
Engr Intel Summary 7, Mar 43; Coll, Keith, and 
Rosenthal, The Corps of Engineers: Troops and Equipment, 
| pp. 479-80] AFHQ Engr Intel Summary 10, Apr 43; 
Herchal Ottinger, Engineer Agency for Resources 
Inventories, "Landmine and Countermine Warfare," 
North Africa, 1940-1943 (Washington: Corps of Engi- 
neers, 1972), pp. 255-62. 

w Rpt of Engr Opns, Carter, II Corps, 15 Mar- 10 



Water Supply 

Because reliable sources were scarce, 
the provision of water came next to 
road work and mine clearing in impor- 
tance to combat engineers in Tunisia. 
Water supply involved three principal 
jobs: locating sources, testing and puri- 
fying, and distributing water to the 
troops. The engineers were concerned 
primarily with the first two; the arms 
and services usually provided their own 
trucks to haul water from engineer 
water points. 

Each combat engineer battalion car- 
ried equipment to establish four water 
points and normally set up two forward 
and one or two back. As the divisions 
moved forward the rear water points 
leapfrogged over the forward ones. 
Combat engineer regiments provided 
similar service to corps units, as did gen- 
eral service regiments for units in areas 
to which they were assigned, although 
in rear areas much of the work was 
done by engineer units specifically or- 
ganized and equipped for water supply. 
When II Corps' offensive through Gafsa 
was impending, the 518th Engineer 
Water Supply Company moved for- 
ward to supplement the work combat 
engineers had done to establish water 
points, for the approaching end of the 
rainy season promised to make the job 
more difficult. 40 

The first step in activating a water 
point was to locate a stream, well, pond, 
or spring. In Tunisia most of the sources 
were wells, which were marked in the 



Apr, dated 1 May 43; Rpt, Carter, 28 May 43, sub: 
Rpt of Engr Opns II Corps, 22 Apr-8 May. 

10 Hist 109th Engr C Bn, Tunisian Campaign; Rpt 
of Engr Opns, Carter, II Corps, 15 Mar— 10 Apr, 
dated 1 May 43; Henney, "Combat Engineers in North 
Africa, Pt. II," pp. 40-42. 



108 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



central and southern parts of the coun- 
try by clusters of trees. The next step 
was to test the water for potability, 
turbidity, and poison. An engineer tech- 
nician carried a kit of test tubes and 
chemicals for this purpose. If he ap- 
proved a particular source, a squad 
brought in a truck loaded with a motor- 
ized pump, a sand filter, a chlorinator, 
and a collapsible 3,000-gallon canvas 
tank which when erected stood about 
four feet high. Within about thirty min- 
utes the squad had water pumping 
through the filters. The engineers used 
chemical disinfectants, principally chlo- 
rine gas or sodium hypochlorite. The 
purification equipment proved entirely 
adequate, even for water that was highly 
turbid and contaminated. 41 

During the Tunisian campaign the 
engineers continually put in and took 
out water points. Some sources had to 
be abandoned because pumps sucked 
them dry, others because the units they 
supplied had moved. During II Corps' 
offensive through Gafsa between 17 
March and 11 April, the 518th Engi- 
neer Water Supply Company had tanker 
trucks haul over three million gallons 
of water to forward distribution points 
called dry points. Trucks from the arms 
and services came to these dry points, 
as they would to any other water source, 
to fill five-gallon cans for their units. 
During the offensive the 518th also 
repaired a generator and a diesel well 
pump, which the Germans had dam- 
aged, to put the Gafsa and Station de 
Sened water systems back into oper- 
ation. 



41 Capt. Ralph Ingersoll, The Battle Is the Payuff(New 
York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1943), pp. 48-49; Lt. 
William J. Diamond, "Water Supply in North Africa," 
The Military Engineer, XXXV, no. 217 (November 
1943), 565-66. 



In mountainous northern Tunisia 
during the final phase of the campaign, 
hauling water was less a problem since 
sources were more numerous. Combat 
engineers were able to operate several 
points in their own areas, while the 
518th operated sources for corps troops 
and hospitals. The large number of 
enemy troops captured in the closing 
days of the campaign precipitated some- 
thing of a water crisis, and all available 
tankers were needed again to haul water 
to prisoner of war enclosures. On its 
peak day during this period the 518th 
distributed 72,840 gallons of water. 42 

Camouflage 

Engineer performance in camouflage 
was less successful than in water supply. 
Before the invasion AFHQ had speci- 
fied that each army, corpss and major 
air force headquarters would have a 
qualified camouflage officer and that 
each unit down to the battalion and sep- 
arate company level should name a unit 
camouflage officer. These officers be- 
came so burdened with additional du- 
ties during the campaign that unit cam- 
ouflage suffered. To remedy this situa- 
tion II Corps obtained Company B, 
601st Engineer Camouflage Battalion, 
and for three weeks before the Gafsa 
attack had instruction teams teach corps 
units camouflage techniques. But, in 
the combat zone, more than teaching 
was essential, for camouflage was proba- 
bly better understood than enforced. 43 



42 Rpt of Engr Opns, Carter, II Corps, 15 Mar- 10 
Apr, dated 1 May 43; Rpt, Carter, 28 May 43, sub: 
Rpt of Engr Opns II Corps, 22 Apr— 8 May; Henney, 
"Combat Engineers in North Africa, Pt. II." 

4S AFHQ Opns Memo 20, Camouflage Policy, 17 
Oct 42; Memo, Maj Fred K. Shirk, U.S. Camouflage 
Officer, Engr Sect, AFHQ, Comments on Camouflage 
Operations During the North African Campaign (8 



THE TUNISIAN CAMPAIGN 



109 



Camouflage was a command respon- 
sibility, and many commanders tried to 
enforce it. Covered windshields did not 
glint, and dusty, muddy vehicles 
blended with the terrain. Some units 
draped camouflage nets over their ve- 
hicles, some used the nets for bedding, 
and some did not use them at all. Units 
seldom attempted camouflaging vehi- 
cle tracks, for the barren North Afri- 
can landscape made it virtually impossi- 
ble to conceal the army's bulky motor- 
ized equipment, particularly when it 
was in motion. The best hope was to 
mask equipment identity. Toward the 
end of the campaign, as the Allies 
gained superiority in the air, camou- 
flage discipline relaxed almost com- 
pletely. 44 

Maps 

The II Corps engineer was responsi- 
ble for distributing maps to American 
units in Tunisia, with British First Army 
providing the maps according to stock 
levels set for the corps. The system 
worked well. Five men of the 62d Engi- 
neer Topographic Company issued 'all 
maps, using a 2 1/2-ton, 6-by-6 that the 
470th Engineer Maintenance Company 
converted into a mobile map depot. 

Old French maps provided the base 
for the maps II Corps used in Tunisia; 



Nov 42-8 May 45); Rpt, 601st Engr Camouflage Bn 
to CG, II Corps, 26 May 43, sub: Resume of Opns; all 
in file Camouflage, 2 Jul 43, Intnl AFHQ, A- 1434, 
Engr Sch Lib, Rpt, Engr Sect, AFHQ to CofEngrs, 
WD, 1 9 Jul 43, U.S. Engrsin the Tunisian Campaign. 

44 AFHQ Opn Memo 20, Camouflage Policy, 17 Oct 
42; Ltr, Lt Col E. I. Davis, 26 Apr 43; Rpt, Hall to CG, 
AGF, 24 Apr 43, sub: Rpt of Visit to NATO; Bradley, 
A Solider's Story, pp. 37, 40; Rpt, Lt Col G. E. Lynch, 
Observer from HQ AGF, for Period 30 Dec 42-6 
Feb 43, ca. 5 Mar 43, 319.1/84, AGF file (F.O.), binder 
1, Observer Rpts, 1 Jan -20 Jul 43. 



the corps' engineer topographic com- 
pany overprinted more recent infor- 
mation. The maps often proved inaccu- 
rate on important points. Scales varied 
from the 1:10,000 town plan of Bizerte 
(useful during mine clearing and recon- 
struction work) to 1 : 200,000 road maps. 
Those most in use were 1:200,000 for 
southern Tunisia and 1:100,000 for 
northern Tunisia. These scales were 
satisfactory for regimental and higher 
headquarters but not for lower level 
units and artillery. Two days before the 
attack got under way in the north, Brit- 
ish First Army furnished II Corps 1,000 
copies of a 1:25,000 edition and a few 
days later 2,000 more copies contain- 
ing revised intelligence data. This large- 
scale map proved valuable, as did a 
1:50,000 operational series. 43 

Aerial photographs could have done 
much to correct and supplement the 
maps, but those available in Tunisia 
were wholly inadequate. Enlarged 
small-scale maps were poor substitutes 
for large-scale tactical maps. Good aerial 
photography was needed for intelli- 
gence and high altitude photomapping 
for map substitutions. The British First 
Army furnished some aerial photo- 
graphs, but II Corps was never able to 
get enough. Wide-angle, high-altitude 
photomapping was not available at all. 46 



45 Rpt, Carter, 28 May 43, sub: Rpt of Engr Opns II 
Corps, 22 Apr— 8 May; 26th Inf Rpt, Lessons Learned 
in the Gafsa — El Guettar Opns, 13 Apr 43; Memo, Col 
Michael Buckley, Jr., for CG, AGF, 17 May 43, sub: 
Observer Rpt, II Corps, Tunisia, 21-26 Apr 43; Rpt, 
Maj Gen William H. Simpson to CG, AGF, 7 May 43, 
sub: Rpt on Visit to North African Theater (hereafter 
cited as Simpson Rpt); both in 319.1/84, AGF file 
(F.O.), binder 1, Observer Rpts, 1 Jan-20 Jul 43. 

46 Rpt, Carter, 28 May 43, sub: Rpt of Engr Opns II 
Corps, 22 Apr-8 May; Rpt, Maj Gen Walker to CG, 
AGF, 12 Jun 43, sub: Rpt of Visit to North African 
Theater; Simpson Rpt, 



110 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



Command Reorganizations 

With the Allies moving on an increas- 
ingly isolated but still dangerous enemy 
in Tunisia, the chief abiding difficulty 
in engineer supply in North Africa, 
apart from expected delays in ship- 
ments from the United States, was the 
tangled command structure that evolved 
in the area. In the attempts to resolve 
the awkward relationships between 
AFHQ and the ETOUSA headquarters 
in London, the War Department pushed 
for and General Eisenhower accepted 
the idea of a theater command in North 
Africa. A reorganization on 30 Decem- 
ber 1942 centralized control of the 
Atlantic and Mediterranean Base Sec- 
tions directly under AFHQ, relieving 
Western Task Force and II Corps of 
port and supply line operation. On 4 
February 1943, taking advantage of the 
momentary lull in the Tunisian cam- 
paign, the War Department directed 
the establishment of the North African 
Theater of Operations, U.S. Army 
(NATOUSA), to consolidate and ad- 
minister all American affairs in North 
Africa. General Eisenhower headed 
AFHQ and the new theater but acted 
on all theater administrative detail 
through his deputy commander, Brig. 
Gen. Everett S. Hughes. General 
Hughes, attempting to clarify his posi- 
tion for American forces, requested 
that he be designated commanding gen- 
eral of the Communications Zone, 
NATOUSA (COMZ, NATOUSA), since 
no American doctrine specified the 
office of deputy theater commander 
that Eisenhower had conferred upon 
him. Formally instituted on 9 February 
1943, COMZ, NATOUSA, existed as a 
graft onto AFHQ, with senior Ameri- 
can AFHQ officers doing triple duty as 



the staff for the COMZ command, for 
the NATOUSA headquarters, and for 
AFHQ. 

Further complicating the structure 
after 14 February 1943 was the SOS, 
NATOUSA, command, established 
over arguments against maintaining a 
headquarters G— 4, a communications 
zone command, and a separate services 
of supply organization in the same 
theater. Under the command of Brig. 
Gen. Thomas B. Larkin, former head 
of the Mediterranean Base Section, 
SOS, NATOUSA, was another level of 
command between the theater head- 
quarters and the base sections; how- 
ever, while the directive establishing his 
command assigned to Larkin all U.S. 
Army logistical functions except high- 
level planning and policy making, it 
failed to give him adequate control of 
the base sections. Already an anomaly 
under the current field service regula- 
tions, since American doctrine did not 
envisage a communications zone and a 
services of supply in the same theater, 
Larkin's command entered into infor- 
mal agreements with the base section 
commanders that placed overall con- 
trol of supply, construction, mainte- 
nance, and transportation with SOS, 
NATOUSA. But COMZ, NATOUSA, 
did not confirm this arrangement; the 
agreements existed only as policy guide- 
lines, which base section commanders 
could circumvent. Since SOS, NATO- 
USA, had to issue all directives to the 
base sections through COMZ, NATO- 
USA, General Larkin's plans were al- 
tered or delayed in accord with other 
plans and priorities. Though the the- 
ater command tried to untangle the 
channels of command, the end of the 
Tunisian campaign found the lines of 
responsibility between COMZ, NATO- 



THE TUNISIAN CAMPAIGN 



111 



USA, and SOS, NATOUSA, and be- 
tween SOS, NATOUSA, and AFHQ's 
G-4 still unclear. The AFHQ G-4, 
acting as planner for the inter-Allied 
staff and also in his NATOUSA capa- 
city, frequently operated in the field of 
supply and dealt with the base sections 
directly where SOS authority should 
have prevailed. This command chain 
persisted for another year until the dis- 
solution of COMZ, NATOUSA, and 
the consolidation of logistical operations 
under SOS, NATOUSA, on 20 Febru- 
ary 1944. Within that chain, Brig. Gen. 
Donald A. Davison, as AFHQ engineer, 
also acted as chief engineer to the 
NATOUSA and the COMZ, NATO- 
USA, commands. As with other Ameri- 
can staff officers similarly situated, he 
had to remember in which capacity he 
was acting in any given matter. 

Other complications continued to 
plague the U.S. Army logistical system 
in North Africa. The chiefs of U.S. 
Army technical services remained at 
AFHQ/NATOUSA instead of transfer- 
ring to SOS, NATOUSA, as might have 
been expected. This arrangement fur- 
ther circumscribed Larkin's span of 
control and authority. Finally, SOS, 
NATOUSA, had to set up its headquar- 
ters at Oran, the principal American 
supply base in North Africa, although 
AFHQ/NATOUSA headquarters in- 
stallations lay at Algiers, over 200 miles 
to the east. Communications over this 
distance often slowed logistical reaction 
time. 

The establishment of SOS, NATO- 
USA, created a new set of personnel 
problems for the engineers. The Engi- 
neer Section of SOS, NATOUSA, in- 
formally came into being in February 
with six officers and seven enlisted men 
borrowed from the 1st Engineer Am- 



phibian Brigade. Not until April did 
the section receive an allotment of five 
officers and fourteen enlisted men and 
return the borrowed personnel to the 
brigade. Initially, the principal function 
of the small SOS, NATOUSA, Engi- 
neer Section was to control and edit 
requisitions for engineer supplies that 
the base section engineers drew on the 
United States or the United Kingdom. 
In turn, the main tasks of the base sec- 
tion engineers during the Tunisian 
campaign were to construct and main- 
tain supply routes and to operate engi- 
neer supply depots. 47 

Atlantic Base Section 

All along the long line of communica- 
tions from Casablanca east, prepara- 
tions went forward with all possible 
speed for the decisive battles in Tunisia. 
Engineer supplies and equipment came 
into Atlantic Base Section (ABS) at 
Casablanca at the rate of 2,000 tons 
per convoy, and ABS issued large 
amounts of engineer supplies to units 
staging for Tunisia. The depot respon- 
sibilities taxed the ABS engineer sup- 
ply personnel (built around the 451st 
Engineer Depot Company) to the limit, 
and local labor could not meet the 
emergency. In April the arrival of an 
engineer general service company eased 
the problem at the ABS engineer depot. 



47 Leo J. Meyer, The Strategy and Logistical History: 
MTO, chs. VI-VII, MS in CMH; History of Allied 
Force Headquarters, pt. I, Aug— Dec 42, pp. 61—62; 
and pt. II, sec. 1, p. 200; G-4 Staff, MTOUSA, 
Logistical History of NATOUSA-MTOUSA (Naples: G. 
Montanio, 1945), p. 24; Memo, Lt Col O. B. Beasley, 
XO, Engr Sect, AFHQ, for CG, NATOUSA, 27 Mar 
43, sub: Orgn of the Engr Sect, AFHQ/NATOUSA, 
NATOUSA Engr Sect, 320.2 (2); WD, Field Service 
Regulations, Administration, FM 100-10, 9 Dec 40, 
pp. 20-23. 



112 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



Unit demands for many items in 
excess of Table of Basic Allowances, 
together with a growing need for vastly 
more material for housing, hospitals, 
and sanitary facilities than originally 
planned, placed most items in ABS 
engineer dumps in the "critical" cate- 
gory. Construction supplies from the 
United States lagged far behind requisi- 
tions and procuring locally such items 
as cement, lumber, and electrical and 
plumbing equipment was difficult. A 
major drop in imports since the out- 
break of war in Europe in 1939 had 
created a serious shortage of construc- 
tion supplies of all types throughout 
French Morocco, and local merchants 
and manufacturers tended to hold back 
materials that might later bring higher 
prices; however, centralized purchas- 
ing for engineer supply items largely 
overcame the local procurement prob- 
lem. 

By mid-May, at the end of the Tuni- 
sian campaign, ABS engineers had vir- 
tually completed their own construction 
program and had issued tons of locally 
procured construction material. At the 
same time, less than half the construc- 
tion supplies ABS engineers had requi- 
sitioned from the United States had 
reached Casablanca. Much of the miss- 
ing materiel that began to arrive dur- 
ing succeeding weeks was no longer 
needed. By late June ABS engineer 
dumps contained 10 million board feet 
of unwanted lumber. 48 

Mediterranean Base Section 

At Oran, the site of both Mediterra- 
nean Base Section (MBS) and SOS, 



48 History of the Atlantic Base Section to June 1 , 
1943, vol. I, pp. 29-32. 



NATOUSA, personnel problems were 
much the same as those at ABS. Four 
engineer supply depots were in the 
Oran area by late December 1942, but 
only the 450th Engineer Depot Com- 
pany (less one platoon) was available to 
operate them. As early as December an 
engineer dump truck company and two 
companies of the 1st Engineer Amphib- 
ian Brigade had to be diverted to depot 
operations, and the depots also em- 
ployed about 800 local laborers. In mid- 
winter the understrength (1 officer and 
80 enlisted men) 7 1 5th Engineer Depot 
Company joined the force. By March, 
when the 460th Engineer Depot Com- 
pany reached Oran from the Zone'of the 
Interior (ZI), the MBS engineer depots 
were employing approximately 1,500 
local laborers. In April the 462d Engi- 
neer Depot Company arrived from the 
ZI. Nevertheless, the MBS engineer 
constantly had to add nonsupply engi- 
neer detachments to the depot force. 
These detachments generally had no 
supply training and had to learn on the 
job to unload, handle, store, and account 
for engineer supplies. 49 

Shortages of equipment, especially 
vehicles, also plagued engineer supply 
operations within MBS. As of Febru- 
ary 1943 the 450th Engineer Depot 
Company, the first such unit in the 
Oran area, was 30 percent short of its 
TB A vehicles, the 7 1 5th Engineer De- 
pot Company 60 percent short, and 
other engineer units assigned to depot 
operations an average of 31.5 percent 



4 " Memo, Col George D. Pence, C — 1 , MBS, for CG, 
MBS, 24 Jan 43, sub: Status, Shipments of U.S. Units 
and Casual Personnel; Rpt, Col Moms W. Gilland, 
Dep Engr, MBS to CG, MBS, 27 Dec 42, sub: Lessons 
from Operation Torch, HQ, MBS; Rpt, Lt Cot R. W. 
Colglazier, Jr., Asst XO, Engr Sect, to CG, MBS, 24 
Jan 43, sub: Current Status Rpt, Engr Serv, MBS. 



THE TUNISIAN CAMPAIGN 



113 



short. The most serious need was dump 
trucks, and the MBS engineer con- 
stantly tried to obtain more of them. In 
late January 1943 he requested the 
highest shipping priority for dump 
trucks, pointing out that they repre- 
sented a very small percentage of engi- 
neer tonnage. 50 The Tunisian campaign 
ended, however, before the problem 
was solved. 

During January 1943 MBS engineer 
depots shipped an average of 250 tons 
of engineer supplies per day eastward 
to support operations in Tunisia. The 
figure rose to 400 tons in February, 500 
tons in March, and 900 tons in April; 
however, the end of the Tunisian cam- 
paign in mid-May brought that month's 
average down to 450. While the MBS 
engineers were issuing supplies, they 
also had to handle increasingly large 
receipts. In February, for example, 
MBS engineer depots received an aver- 
age of 600 tons of supplies and equip- 
ment per day, and at the end of the 
month engineer depot stocks approxi- 
mated 35,000 tons. The receipt aver- 
age for March was about 700 tons a 
day, for April approximately 1,400 
tons, and for May 1,375 tons. At the 
end of May, MBS engineer depots held 
more than 100,000 tons of engineer 
supplies and equipment. 51 

Eastern Base Section 

NATOUSA established the Eastern 
Base Section (EBS) on 13 February 



5,1 Rpt, Colglazier to CG, MBS, 24 Jan 43, sub: Cur- 
rent Status Rpt; Portfolio entitled Nov 42- Jan 43, 
MBS. 

51 Monthly Rpts, Engr Serv, MBS, Mar, Apr, May, 
andjun43, 314.7 Hist, 1942-44, North African Ser- 
vice Comd File; History of the Mediterranean Base 
Section, Sep 42-May 44, in CMH. 



1943 to support II Corps in Tunisia. 
The commander was Col. Arthur W. 
Pence, and the chief of the Engineer 
Section was Col. Donald B. Adams. The 
command organized and undertook 
planning at Oran, and on 23 February 
began moving eastward to Constantine, 
in Algeria, about 100 miles short of the 
Tunisian border. The organization of 
EBS nearly coincided with significant 
changes in tactical command within 
Allied forces in North Africa. On 7 
March Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., 
took over command of II Corps from 
Maj. Gen. Lloyd R. Fredendall, and II 
Corps passed from the control of the 
British First Army to that of 18 Army 
Group, General Sir Harold R. L. G. 
Alexander commanding. The British 
First and Eighth Armies constituted the 
other major components of 18 Army 
Group. 

The principal problems EBS engi- 
neers faced were receiving, storing, and 
issuing materiel; repairing and main- 
taining supply roads; building adequate 
depot facilities and shops; and rehabili- 
tating ports at Philippeville and Bone, 
on the Mediterranean coast north from 
Constantine. The necessity of quick 
reaction to changes in the progress of 
the ground campaign differentiated 
EBS from ABS and MBS. 

In March the principal EBS engineer 
depot lay at Tebessa, close to the Tuni- 
sian border, about 110 miles southeast 
of Constantine and within relatively 
easy supporting distance of II Corps. 
When II Corps suddenly moved to 
northern Tunisia in April, EBS engi- 
neers followed suit. They concentrated 
at a partially constructed EBS general 
depot at Mondovi, about twenty-five 
miles south of Bone, and rapidly set up 
advance engineer dumps at La Calle 



114 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGALNST GERMANY 



and Tabarka, on the coast east from 
Bone. Employing eight-ton and sixteen- 
ton trailers, among other vehicles, engi- 
neers rushed forward engineer supplies 
and equipment not only from Tebessa 
and Mondovi but also from EBS depots 
at St.-Charles and Ouled Rahmoun. 
The rapid, 24-hour-a-day engineer dis- 
placement played a large part in mak- 
ing II Corps' swift advance toward 
Bizerte possible. 32 

For all the engineer units involved, 



52 History of the Eastern Base Section, Feb- 1 Jun 
43, in CMH; Rpt, Engr, EBS, to CofEngrs, WD, Activi- 
ties of the Engr Serv, EBS, 2 Nov 43; Rpt, Lt Col 
Robert B. Gear, AFHQ Engr Sect, to Chf Engr, 
AFHQ, Rpt of Supply Inspection Trip to Tunisia, 
333, Rpts on Visits and Inspections, N ATOUSA Engr 



one of the greatest practical drawbacks 
in applying the experience of North 
Africa was the short period in which to 
determine required changes in doc- 
trine, organization, and practice. 
Though much of this knowledge was 
cumulative and was absorbed from the 
first in the theater, the process of learn- 
ing was uneven. Some units, the engi- 
neer amphibian brigade in particular, 
were shunted into duty in rear areas 
where they could not gain experience 
in a unique mission. Nevertheless, the 
lessons of past shortcomings were ap- 
plied to the planning for the invasion 
of Sicily, scheduled for mid-July 1943, 
only seven weeks after the close of the 
Tunisian battles that ended German 
and Italian military influence in Africa. 



CHAPTER VI 



Sicily: The Beachhead 



The British and American Combined 
Chiefs of Staff (CCS) agreed at Casa- 
blanca in January 1943 that Sicily would 
be the next major Allied target in the 
Mediterranean after Tunisia. 1 Soon 
afterward AFHQ named several offi- 
cers to Allied planning staffs for 
HUSKY, the code name of the Sicilian 
venture. They met on 10 February 
1943 in Room 141 of the St. George 
Hotel in Algiers and took the cover 
name Force 141. The group operated 
as a subsection of G— 3, AFHQ, until 
1 5 May, when it merged with the deac- 
tivated headquarters of 15th Army 
Group to become an independent oper- 
ational and planning headquarters. On 
D-day of HUSKY, the merged organiza- 
tion became Headquarters, 15th Army 
Group, General Sir Harold R. L. G. 
Alexander commanding. Force 141 
prepared a general plan, and separate 
American (Force 343) and British 
(Force 545) task forces worked out 
details. Force 343 evolved into Head- 
quarters, Seventh U.S. Army, under 
General Patton, and Force 545 into 



1 The general sources for this chapter are: Lt. Col. 
Albert N. Garland and Howard McGaw Smyth, Sicily 
and the Surrender of Italy, United States Army in World 
War II (Washington, 1965); History of Allied Force 
Headquarters, pt. II, Dec 42-Dec 43, sec. 1; HQ, 
Force 141, Planning Instr 1, in Rpt of Opns, Seventh 
U.S. Army in the Sicilian Campaign, 10 Jul— 17 Aug 
43 (hereafter cited as Seventh Army Rpt Sicily). 



Headquarters, British Eighth Army, 
under General Montgomery. 

The engineer adviser to Force 141 
during the early planning months was 
Lt. Col. Charles H. Bonesteel III, who 
later became deputy chief engineer 
(U.S.) at Headquarters, 15th Army 
Group. Despite the limited Force 141 
planning, the force engineers and the 
Engineer Section at AFHQ from the 
first sought to line up the engineer 
units, equipment, and supplies that 
would be required once detailed prepa- 
rations got under way. The engineer 
planners also compiled supply lists for 
the elements of Forces 343 and 545 that 
would be mounted in North Africa and 
gave them to SOS, NATOUSA, and the 
British Engineer Stores for procure- 
ment. 

Supplies not available in the theater 
had to come from the United States, a 
process that would take ninety days for 
many items. Anticipating a mid-July 
target date for HUSKY, SOS, NATO- 
USA, asked that requisitions be in by 
18 April. Since this date was well be- 
fore detailed plans for the assault were 
completed, the requisitions Force 141 
and AFHQ prepared were aimed at 
providing a general reserve from which 
the task forces could draw later. The 
original supply lists were predicated on 
the assumption that the port of Paler- 
mo would be in use about D plus 8, but 



116 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



in May tactical planners changed the 
location of assault. Earlier planning had 
to be revised completely, and, for the 
most part, supply requirements had to 
be increased. The result was oversup- 
ply of some items and shortages of 
others. Supply planners made up the 
shortages by drawing from units that 
would temporarily remain in North 
Africa. 2 

Force 141 and the AFHQ Engineer 
Section also drew up a troop list in an 
effort to assure that the necessary 
troops reached the theater. Engineer 
planners were able to get approval for 
an engineer allocation of about 15 per- 
cent of the total HUSKY ground forces. 
They asked for several special engineer 
organizations, including a headquarters 
and headquarters company of a port 
construction and repair group, an 
equipment company, a utilities com- 
pany, and two "Scorpion" companies. 3 

In the meantime engineers labored 
under two major unknowns — the time 
and the place of the assault. Not until 
13 April did the Combined Chiefs of 
Staff approve a target date of 10 July, 
and the decision on where to land on 
Sicily came even later. Messina, only 
three miles from the Italian mainland, 
was the final objective, but was consid- 



2 Seventh Army Engr Rpt Sicily; Col Garrison H. 
Davidson, Preliminary Rpt of Seventh Army Engr on 
the Sicilian Opn, 23 Aug 43; Ltr, Brig Gen D. O. Elliott 
to AFHQ, 21 Sep 43, sub: Administrative Lessons 
Learned from Opns in Sicily from the Engr Viewpoint; 
latter two in 370.212 Sicily, Rpts of Opns, Aug 43 to 
Oct 43, AFHQ files. Ltr, Lt Col Bonesteel to Brig Gen 
C. R. Moore, Chf Engr, ETOUSA, 22 |ul 43, 321 
Engr Units 42-43, AFHQ files. 

3 Ltr, Bonesteel to Moore, 22 Jul 43. During the 
campaign engineer troops, including aviation engi- 
neers, made up 1 0.5 percent of Seventh Army strength 
in Sicily. See Chf Engr, 15th Army Gp, Notes on Engr 
Opns in Italy, no. 6, 1 Jan 44. 



ered too strong for direct assault. The 
Americans and British would have to 
land elsewhere and move overland 
against Messina. Ground forces would 
need ports to ensure their supply lines, 
and airfields close enough to provide 
fighter cover. 

The chief ports and airfields on Sic- 
ily clustered at opposite ends of the 
island. In the northwest lay Palermo, 
the largest port, and nearby were sev- 
eral airfields, while another group of 
airfields lay along the southeastern 
coast. The assumption that Palermo 
had to be seized early shaped HUSKY 
planning for months, but General 
Montgomery, commanding the British 
Eighth Army, insisted that the landings 
be concentrated at the southeast cor- 
ner of the island, and on 3 May Gen- 
eral Eisenhower approved Mont- 
gomery's plan. 

The new plan called for the simulta- 
neous landing of eight divisions along 
a 100-mile front between Licata and 
Syracuse. The British Eighth Army, 
landing on the east, was to seize Syra- 
cuse and other moderate- sized ports 
nearby. The American Seventh Army, 
under General Patton, was to land 
along the shores of the Gulf of Gela, 
far from any port of consequence. Sev- 
enth Army would depend upon supply 
over the beach for as much as thirty 
days, a prospect that would have been 
considered impossible only a few weeks 
earlier. 

During the latter part of 1942 the 
production of landing ships and craft 
accelerated, reaching a peak in Febru- 
ary 1943. Force 141 had ordered all of 
these vessels it could get, and when they 
became available in some numbers sup- 
ply over the southern beaches began to 



SICILY: THE BEACHHEAD 



117 




Ponton Causeway Extending From an LST to Shore 



seem feasible. 4 The new amphibious 
equipment included DUKWs, -naval 
pontons, and new types of landing 
craft. The DUKW was a 2 1/2-ton am- 
phibious truck that could make five 
knots at sea and normal truck speeds 
on land. It offered great promise, for it 
could bridge the critical gap between 
the ships offshore and the supply 
dumps behind the beach. 

New types of shallow-draft landing 
craft featured hinged bows and ramps 
forward. Flat-bottomed, without pro- 
jecting keels, they were difficult to 



4 Richard M. Leighton, "Planning for Sicily," U.S. 
Naval Institute Proceedings, LXXXVIII, no. 5 (May 
1962), 90-101; Seventh Army Rpt Sicily, pp. A-5 to 
A-8; Col A. H. Head, Notes on the Planning, Train- 
ing, and Execution of Operation Husky, Misc Papers 
Neptune, HQ, ETOUSA, files. 



maneuver in a high cross wind or surf 
but could come close enough to shore 
to put men and vehicles in shallow 
water. The 36-foot LCVP, which could 
carry thirty-six combat-equipped in- 
fantrymen or four tons of cargo, swung 
into the water off an invasion beach 
from a larger vessel in a ship-to-shore 
operation. Newer LSTs (Landing Ship, 
Tank), coming into production in 
December 1942, were designed for 
shore-to-shore amphibious assaults. 
The American model was 328 feet long, 
had a 50-foot beam, and on ocean voy- 
ages accommodated up to 1,900 tons 
of cargo or 20 medium tanks; 163 
combat-ready troops could find ade- 
quate, if sparse, berthing aboard. 
British-built versions were slightly 
larger and drew more water at the stern 



118 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



than at the bow and so tended to ground 
on the gradually sloping shelves and 
shifting sandbars in front of the Medi- 
terranean beaches. Navy steel pontons 
running from the ship's bow to shore 
would serve as causeways to dry land 
for cargo and vehicles aboard the LSTs. 
Two intermediate-size landing craft 
that served as lighters for the LSTs and 
for larger attack transports and auxilia- 
ries were the 50-foot LCM (Landing 
Craft, Mechanized) and the 150-foot 
LCT (Landing Craft, Tank). Both had 
a speed of ten knots and drew little 
more than three feet of water fully 
loaded. The LCM took on 1 medium 
tank, 30 tons of cargo, or 120 troops. 
The invaluable LCT could transport 
five thirty-ton tanks or a comparable 
load of cargo or troops. 5 

Plans and Preparations 

Eisenhower selected Headquarters, I 
Armored Corps, at Rabat as the head- 
quarters for Force 343, and the I 
Armored Corps engineer, Col. Garri- 
son H. Davidson, was named the Force 
343 engineer. On 25 March he began 
planning for HUSKY, but unlike Force 
545 (the British task force), I Armored 
Corps still had some operational duties 
in North Africa. Not until 13 June did 
Force 343 issue a complete engineer 
plan oudining boundaries and setting 
general policies. Each subtask force 



5 Fifth Army Training Center History; ONI 226, 7 
Apr 44, Allied Landing Craft and Ships, and Supple- 
ment 1 to ONI 226; Robert W. Coakley and Rich- 
ard M. Leighton, Global Logistics and Strategy, 1943- 
1945, United States Army in World War II (Washing- 
ton, 1968), apps. B-l, B-2, pp. 827-29; Samuel E. 
Morison, "History of United States Naval Operations 
in World War II," vol. IX, Sicily-Salerno- Anzio, January 
1943— June 1944 (Boston: Little, Brown Company, 
1957), pp. 30-32. 



commander, who was to control his 
assault area for the first few days, 
worked out his own detailed assault and 
engineer plans. 6 

Planning for HUSKY was difficult. 
The time and place of the assault were 
fixed late. AFHQ's preoccupation with 
the Tunisian campaign meant that the 
list of major combat units to be used in 
HUSKY could be determined only after 
Axis forces in North Africa capitulated 
early in May. Also, AFHQ wrapped 
heavy security around the coming 
operation. Engineer unit commanders 
were briefed on HUSKY only after em- 
barking for Sicily, too late for realistic 
preinvasion training. Even in the higher 
engineer echelons, essential informa- 
tion was slow in coming. Though Head- 
quarters, I Armored Corps, was named 
the task force headquarters for the 
invasion in early March, no one told 
the corps engineer of his new assign- 
ment for another three weeks. On 19 
March Colonel Davidson also belatedly 
learned of the decision to redirect the 
assault to the southeastern beaches of 
Sicily instead of the town of Palermo 
on the north shore. 7 

Another impediment to planning was 
the great distances that separated the 
several staffs. The Force 141 (15th 
Army Group) plan called for assault 
landings by three American divisions, 
with a strong armored and infantry 
reserve to be held close offshore on the 
left flank of the American sector. Four 
subtask forces were set up: the three 
reinforced assault divisions, JOSS (3d 



6 Ltr, AFHQ to Fifth Army, 5 Mar 43, sub: Orgn of 
Western Task Force, 320.2 Orgn and Tactical Units 
(1942-43), AFHQ files; Rpt of Seventh Army Engr 
Sicily. 

7 Rpt of Seventh Army Engr Sicily; Ltr, Brig Gen 
Dabney O. Elliott, AFHQ Engr, to AFHQ, 21 Sep 43. 



SICILY: THE BEACHHEAD 



119 



Infantry Division), DIME (1st Infantry 
Division), and Cent (45th Infantry 
Division) and, a reserve force, KOOL 
(2d Armored Division less Combat 
Command A, plus the 1st Division's 
18th Regimental Combat Team). 
SHARK (Headquarters, II Corps) was 
to coordinate DIME and Cent. During 
the planning stage, these and higher 
headquarters were scattered across the 
breadth of North Africa. AFHQ was at 
Algiers, the British task force headquar- 
ters (Force 545) at Cairo, and Force 343 
at Rabat in Morocco until the latter part 
of April when it moved to Mostaganem 
in Algeria. JOSS headquarters was at 
Jemmapes, SHARK at Relizane, and 
DIME at Oran. Western Naval Task 
Force headquarters remained at Al- 
giers, which seemed to Army authori- 
ties too far from Force 343, but the two 
services cooperated well. 8 

According to the instructions Force 
141 issued in April, U.S. engineers were 
responsible for breaching beach obsta- 
cles, clearing and laying minefields, 
supplying water and bulk petroleum 
products, repairing ports and airfields, 
and rebuilding railways. The instruc- 
tions emphasized the importance of 
repairing airfields as soon as possible. 
The Transportation Corps was to deter- 
mine requirements for railway recon- 
struction and request the engineers to 
do the work, but the Seventh Army 
engineer staff worked with G— 4 of 
Force 141 in actual preparations. Troop 
accommodations were to be an "abso- 



8 II Corps Bull V/l, Notes on the Planning and 
Assault Phases of the Sicilian Campaign, by a Military 
Observer, Oct 43, 1st ESB files; Seventh Army Rpt 
Sicily, p. A-2; Rpt, Vice Adm H. K. Hewitt, WNTF 
in Sicilian Campaign; Bradley, A Soldier's Story, p. 108; 
Hist 1st Engr C Bn Rpt, Sicilian Campaign, 10 Jul— 
Dec 43. 



lute minimum," and hospitals were to 
use existing buildings or tents. Engi- 
neers were to provide light, water, and 
latrines. 9 

While all the subtask forces had com- 
mon engineer missions, each also had 
special missions. SHARK engineers were 
to prepare a landing strip at Biscari as 
soon as possible after the assault, have 
runways ready at Comiso and Ponte 
Olivo Airfields by D plus 8, repair a 
jetty at Gela, and build bulk storage and 
pipelines to the airfields. By D plus 4 
the 2602d Engineer Petroleum Distri- 
bution Company was to be ashore at 
DIME beaches and ready to handle over 
1,000 tons of gasoline per day. JOSS 
engineers were to repair the small port 
of Licata and a landing strip at a nearby 
airfield. KOOL engineers were to be 
ready to rehabilitate Porto Empedocle, 
a small harbor thirty miles west of the 
JOSS beaches. 

The engineers were to rely largely 
on local materials for repairing railway 
and electrical installations and building 
troop barracks. Lumber was to be pro- 
vided for hospital flooring and for 
twenty woodframe tarpaulin-covered 
warehouses. All civilian labor was to be 
hired and paid by the using arm or 
service. Until D plus 3 real estate was to 
be obtained either by "immediate occu- 
pancy" or by informal written agree- 
ments between unit purchasing and 
contracting officers and owners. An 
important engineer responsibility was 
providing water, known to be scarce in 
Sicily during the summer. The mini- 
mum water requirement was set at one 
U.S. gallon per man per day. Water 
enough for five days was to be carried 



9 HQ, Force 141, Planning Instr 11, Engr Require- 
ments for Husky, 12 Apr 43. 



120 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



in five-gallon cans on the D-day convoy 
or in Navy bulk storage. 10 

In accordance with the Loper-Hotine 
Agreement, the Geographical Section, 
General Staff, British War Office, was 
responsible for revising maps for 
HUSKY, but AFHQ was responsible for 
reproduction. The Engineer Section, 
AFHQ, established a large field map 
service organization, the Survey Direc- 
torate, in a suburb of Algiers. The 
directorate furnished general tactical 
map for all HUSKY forces except CENT, 
which, staging in the United States, ob- 
tained its maps through OCE in Wash- 
ington. 

In February the 66th Engineer Topo- 
graphic Company, formerly with I Ar- 
mored Corps, joined HUSKY. While 
preparing some tactical maps, the 66th 
concentrated on such secret materials 
as visual aids, naval charts, loading 
plans, photo mosaics, city plans, har- 
bor layouts, and convoy disposition 
charts. The bulk of the company re- 
mained in North Africa under the Sur- 
vey Directorate throughout the Sicily 
campaign, with only its survey platoon, 
essentially a field unit, going to Sicily 
for survey and control work. 

In addition to tactical and strategic 
maps, the topographic engineers pro- 
duced a number of special issues: town 
plans, an air map, and defense and 
water supply overprints. Combat units 
got valuable information from the de- 
fense overprints, particularly those 
marking enemy positions covering the 
beaches and issued to the subtask forces 
before the invasion began, as did engi- 
neers from the water supply overprints, 
which pinpointed probable sources of 



w Seventh Army Engr Plan, Sicilian Opns, Joss Task 
Force (8-12 Jul). 



fresh water. The HUSKY maps were 
considerably better than those for the 
Tunisian campaign. 

HUSKY saw continued progress in 
solving map-handling and distribution 
problems that had been so vexing in 
Tunisia. Two new thirteen-man units, 
the 2657th and 2658th Engineer Map 
Depot Detachments, were responsible 
for storing maps and for distributing 
them in bulk at division, corps, and 
army levels. The two units set up a map 
depot at Constantine on 5 June and 
immediately began to receive large 
stocks. Security considerations, the scat- 
tered deployment of assault units across 
North Africa, the drastic change in the 
basic HUSKY plan, and the tardy arrival 
of maps from England hampered dis- 
tribution. AFHQ and Force 141 had to 
help the depot detachments sort map 
stocks, and truck convoys loaded with 
maps had to be given priority along 
North African roads to get the maps 
out in time. Final deliveries to ships and 
staging areas began on D minus 1 1 and 
were completed to assault units on D 
minus 8, but last minute distribution 
continued aboard ship until D minus 
l. u 

Training 

The subtask forces had decentralized 
responsibility for training their own 
troops for the assault. The Seventh 
Army (Force 343) Engineer Section 
inspected the training of engineer units 
assigned to the subtask forces, gener- 



1 1 Ltr, Bonesteel to Moore, 22 Jul 43; II Corps Engr 
Rpt, 10 Jul- 18 Aug 43, particularly an. 3, Map Sup- 
ply and Distribution; II Corps Bull Y/l, Notes on the 
Planning and Assault Phases of the Sicilian Campaign, 
Oct 43; HQ, Force 141, Planning Instr 15, Maps and 
Charts. 



SICILY: THE BEACHHEAD 



121 



ally supervised that of shore regiments, 
and guided that of SOS, NATOUSA, 
engineer units scheduled to join the 
task force later. The troops underwent 
refresher and special amphibious train- 
ing. Refresher training emphasized 
physical conditioning, mines, marks- 
manship, and other combat techniques. 
Experience in Tunisia had demon- 
strated that nearly all engineer units 
needed such training; but, with the 
exception of mines, little of it could be 
geared directly to the coming opera- 
tion. There was not much time to train 
units for HUSKY, nor could what time 
there was be used to best advantage. In 
the main, engineers in the subtask 
forces, other than shore engineers, had 
to get by with general engineer instruc- 
tion. 12 

Early in March AFHQ decided to use 
the 1st Engineer Amphibian Brigade 
in the invasion of Sicily. The early 
HUSKY plan had given the brigade a 
vital role; the final plan made it even 
greater. The new plan called for the 
brigade to support three assault divi- 
sions and the floating reserve. It also 
called for the supply of all Seventh 
Army forces in Sicily for as long as 
thirty days over the beaches and 
through such tiny ports as Licata and 
Gela. The brigade itself was to func- 
tion as the sole American base section 
in Sicily and handle all supplies for the 
first month on the island. 

It was quite apparent that the tech- 
niques employed during the TORCH 
operation would not suffice against the 
determined opposition expected on 



vz Ltr, Bonesteel to Moore, 22 Jul 43; Seventh Army 
Engr Rpt Sicily. 

lS IstESB Rpt of Action Against the Enemy, 10-13 
Jul 43, Sicily; Rpt, Shore Engineers in Sicily, 1st ESB 
files; Hist 1st ESB, Jun 42-Sep 45. 



Sicily. New techniques, with new equip- 
ment especially designed for amphibi- 
ous operations, would be necessary. 
Army and Navy efforts had to be coor- 
dinated, and such problems as offshore 
sandbars and man-made underwater 
obstacles had to be overcome. The 1st 
Engineer Amphibian Brigade had 
much to do to prepare for its role on 
Sicily, a role on which the entire under- 
taking could well depend. But AFHQ 
remained preoccupied with the Tuni- 
sian campaign. 

Brigade participation in planning for 
HUSKY began on 23 April when Brig. 
Gen. H. C. Wolfe, then commander of 
the headquarters unit known as the 1st 
Engineer Amphibian Brigade, attended 
a conference of unit commanders at 
Rabat. 14 At the time the brigade con- 
sisted of less than a hundred officers 
and enlisted men, for it had all but 
passed out of existence after TORCH, 
its units spread out in support roles in 
North Africa. In February one battal- 
ion of the 531st Engineer Shore Regi- 
ment and another of the 591st Engi- 
neer Boat Regiment assumed identities 
as provisional trucking units and oper- 
ated in support of II Corps until the 
end of the Tunisian campaign. The 
36th and 540th Engineer Combat Regi- 
ments, which had participated in the 
TORCH landings, had construction and 
labor assignments in Morocco through 
April. Only the 2d Battalion of the 
531st, attached to the Fifth Army's 
Invasion Training Center at Port-aux- 
Poules in Algeria, remained associated 
with amphibious warfare in the early 
months of 1943. An entirely new orga- 



H On 25 May 1943 General Wolfe became deputy 
G-3, NATOUSA, and Col Eugene Caffey became 
the brigade commander. 



122 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



nization had to be formed to carry out 
Army responsibilities in support of the 
HUSKY landings. 15 

In the Pacific, engineer brigades fol- 
lowed the pattern conceived for them 
at the Engineer Amphibian Command. 
They operated landing craft as well as 
handling their duties on the beaches. 
These brigades had a unity of com- 
mand not enjoyed by those in the Medi- 
terranean and European theaters, for 
on the Atlantic side landing craft be- 
longed to the Navy. Thus, naval respon- 
sibility in amphibious operations ex- 
tended to the shoreline, whereas Army 
engineer responsibility began at the 
waterline and extended inland. Both 
services accepted this line of demarka- 
tion in principle, but many specific 
questions remained. Army and Navy 
representatives tried to spell out an- 
swers in detail during HUSKY planning, 
but neither in North Africa nor in later 
amphibious operations were they com- 
pletely successful. The definition of 
Army-Navy amphibious responsibilities 
continued to be a source of friction 
throughout the war in Europe. 16 

In the end, U.S. Army engineers 
developed a new type of engineer am- 



15 Hist 1st ESB, Jun 42-Sep 45. 

16 RG 110 A48-139, Notes on War Council, CofS 
files 1941-42; AFHQ Incoming Msg, Marshall to 
Eisenhower and Andrews, 5 Mar 43; Rpt, AColS G-4, 
EAC, to CG, EAC, Rpt on Opn and Maint of Landing 
Craft in North Africa and European Theaters, 13 
Apr 43; A Memorandum of Agreement between the 
Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, the Commander in Chief, 
U.S. Fleet, and Chief of Naval Operations, dated 22 
March 1943, defined the primary responsibilities of 
the Army and the Navy for amphibious training. For 
background on the development of amphibious doc- 
trine, see Coll, Keith, and Ros enthal, T he Corps of 
Engineers: Troops and Equipment, ch. XVI, For a full 
account of amphibious operations in the Southwest 
Paeific, see "Engineers of the Southwest Pacific 1941 - 
45," vol. IV, Amphibian Engineer Operations (Washing- 
ton, 1959). 



phibian brigade for HUSKY. With no 
assignment in the assault waves, the 
newly designated 1st Engineer Special 
Brigade consisted of four shore groups: 
one for each of the three infantry divi- 
sions making the assault and the fourth 
held offshore as part of the reserve 
force (Kool). An engineer regiment 
formed the backbone of each task- 
organized shore group, and each 
group's other assigned or attached units 
included such organizations as a medi- 
cal battalion, a quartermaster DUKW 
battalion, a naval beach battalion, a sig- 
nal company, and an ordnance mainte- 
nance company. A number of smaller 
units, such as dump-operating details 
from each of the several technical ser- 
vices, were attached according to antici- 
pated need. Still other attachments 
operated local facilities such as railways, 
furnished specialized services such as 
water supply and camouflage, or rein- 
forced the brigade in some area such 
as trucking. 17 

The organization of the new brigade 
started toward the end of April, when 
two engineer combat regiments (36th 
and 540th) and an engineer shore regi- 
ment (531st) assembled at Port-aux- 
Poules, twelve miles east of Arzew. The 
fourth shore group, built around the 
40th Engineer Combat Regiment, re- 
ceived amphibious training in the 
United States and arrived at Oran with 
the 45th Infantry Division on 22 June. 18 



17 The 1st Engineer Amphibian Brigade was redes- 
ignated 1st Engineer Special Brigade on 10 May 1943 
and reorganized under TOE 2— 510— S, 21 April 
1943. 1st ESB Rpt of Action Against the Enemy, 
10-13 Jul 43, Sicily; Memo, HQ, 1st ESB, 31 May 
43, sub: Beach Group Organization and Functions. 

18 Hist 1st ESB, Jun 42-Sep 45. The 591st Engi- 
neer Boat Regiment, which had no boats, became sur- 
plus to the needs of the 1st Engineer Special Brigade 
(ESB), and during the remainder of its stay in the 



SICILY: THE BEACHHEAD 



123 



The 36th Engineer Shore Group was 
the largest of the four and when finally 
assembled for the invasion totaled 4,744 
officers and enlisted men. Its nucleus 
was the 2,088-man 36th Engineer Com- 
bat Regiment, plus the 2d Battalion, 
540th Engineer Combat Regiment (623 
men). A naval beach battalion (413 
men) was attached to make hydro- 
graphic surveys, maintain shore-to-ship 
communications, and coordinate the 
beaching of landing craft and LSTs. A 
322-man quartermaster battalion (am- 
phibious), to operate trucks and 
DUKWs, and the 56th Medical Battal- 
ion (505 men) were added, as were a 
number of smaller units. These last 
included a signal company to provide 
radio and wire networks on the beach, 
a military police company to control 
motor traffic and guard prisoners, a 
four-man engineer map depot detach- 
ment to handle reserve map stocks, and 
a detachment from an ordnance main- 
tenance company to repair ordnance 
equipment. An ordnance ammunition 
company, detachments from two quar- 
termaster units, and an engineer depot 
company were included to operate 
beach dumps. The 531st Engineers' 
shore group consisted of 3,803 troops, 
its composition similar to that formed 
around the 36th; the 40th Engineers' 
group had approximately 4,465 offi- 
cers and men. The smallest shore 
group, from the 540th, was with KOOL 
Force and had a strength of about 
2,815. The total strength of the four 
shore groups was approximately 
15,825, including 1,270 naval person- 
nel with three naval beach battalions. 



Mediterranean worked primarily in port operations. 
The unit was disbanded at Naples on 1 November 
1944. 



U.S. Army engineer troops represented 
about 52 percent of the 1st Engineer 
Special Brigade as organized for the 
assault. Later accretions on Sicily would 
bring the brigade's strength to nearly 
20,000. 19 

Some differences existed between the 
531st Engineer Shore Regiment and the 
engineer combat regiment that formed 
the nucleus of the other three shore 
groups. Although the total strength of 
the shore regiment was about the same 
as that of a combat regiment, the for- 
mer had more officers, more specialists, 
and more specialized engineering equip- 
ment. The shore engineers knew all 
that combat engineers did, even for 
combat operations inland, but not vice 
versa. The combat engineers had more 
organic transportation, but they also 
had much organizational equipment 
not needed for beach operations. If 
they left the equipment behind, they 
also had to leave men to guard and 
maintain it, thus weakening the com- 
bat regiment. 20 

In accordance with an AFHQ direc- 
tive, Fifth U.S. Army trained Force 141 
units in amphibious operations at its 
training center at Port-aux-Poules. 21 
When the" 1st Engineer Special Brigade 
came together there, less than 2 1/2 
months were left until D-day. The shore 



19 Rpt, Col Eugene Caffey, Shore Engineers in Sicily, 
app. A. This and a number of other valuable reports 
on Husky are contained in Rpt, HQ, ETOUSA, to 
FUSAG and others, 3 Dec 43, sub: Notes on the Sicil- 
ian Campaign and Extracts from Reports on Opera- 
tion Husky, (cited hereafter as Notes and Extracts, 
Husky); Chf Engr, 15th Army Gp, Notes on Engr 
Opns in Sicily, no. 3, 10 Sep 43, and Notes on Work- 
ing of Sicilian Beaches, 10 Jul 43; Rpt of Seventh 
Army Engr Sicily, apps. to an. 12. 

20 Rpt, Shore Engineers in Sicily, 1st ESB files. 

21 Ltr, Lt Col Bonesteel to Brig Gen D. O. Elliott, 
Chf Engr, AFHQ, 17 Jul 43, 353— A Training Policy, 
AFHQ files. 



124 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



groups had to be organized, equipped, 
and trained. Experiments had to deter- 
mine how to deal with a number of 
problems, such as breaching obstacles 
on the beaches. Troops had to become 
familiar with DUKWs and with the new 
types of landing craft. Combat troops 
and naval units had to train together 
and rehearse landings. 22 

The 1st Engineer Special Brigade 
carried out extensive experiments to 
learn the characteristics of landing craft 
just being introduced into the theater 
and to establish procedures for land- 
ing supplies across the beaches. All 
through May regular training took a 
backseat to tests and experiments, those 
with landing craft and others geared to 
such problems as offshore sandbars. 23 

The discovery of sandbars off many 
of the beaches on Sicily raised serious 
doubts about the whole HUSKY under- 
taking. The typical sandbar lay about 
150 feet offshore under two or three 
feet of water; only the most shallow- 
draft landing craft could ride over 
them. Water often deepened to ten feet 
shoreward of the bars, and naval pon- 
ton causeways were to get troops and 
vehicles aboard LSTs across this gap. 
Another problem, water supply for the 
beaches, was solved by equipping twenty 
LSTs to carry 10,000 gallons of water 
each. Shore parties equipped with can- 
vas storage tanks and hoses were to 
pump this water ashore. 24 



8 Davidson, Preliminary Rpt of Seventh Army Engr 
on the Sicilian Opn, 23 Aug 43; Rpt of Seventh Army 
Engr Sicily. 

Rpt of Seventh Army Engr Sicily; Seventh Army 
Rpt Sicily, pp. C-2 and D-3; Ltr, Col Eugene M. 
Caffey, CO, 1st ESB, to CG, First U.S. Army, 16 Jan 
44, 310.2 Opns, 1st ESB files; Rpt, Shore Engineers 
in Sicily, 1st ESB files; Hist 1st ESB, Jun 42-Sep 45; 
Ltr, Bonesteel to Moore, 22 Jul 43. 

24 Col A. H. Head, Notes on the Planning, Training, 
and Execution of Operation Husky, 25 Jul 43. 



On 3 June Col. Eugene M. Caffey, 
commanding officer of the 1st Engi- 
neer Special Brigade, became responsi- 
ble for organizing, equipping, and train- 
ing the shore units, and, by the Fif- 
teenth, engineer regimental shore 
groups were attached to the subtask 
forces for combined training and re- 
hearsals. As during TORCH, the brigade 
had to train with other Army organiza- 
tions and with the Navy before it could 
prepare its own units adequately. 25 

Rehearsal landings took place be- 
tween 22 June and 4 July, for JOSS in 
the Bizerte-Tunis area and for Dime 
and KOOL in the Arzew area. CENT 
Force, which came from the United 
States, rehearsed near Oran. To Admi- 
ral Hewitt, whose Western Naval Task 
Force was to land the Seventh Army, 
these hurriedly conceived exercises were 
at best a dry run on a reduced scale. 
They had some value for assault troops 
but virtually none for the engineer 
shore groups. The CENT rehearsals, for 
instance, ended before any shore party 
equipment had been landed or any sup- 
plies put across the beach. 26 

Limited time and opportunity made 
the training of many other engineer 
units just as meager, while security pre- 
vented specific training for HUSKY. 
The Fifth Army mine school and the 
British Eighth Army mine school at 



Neptune, HQ, ETOUSA, files; Building the Navy's Bases 
in World War 11, 2 vols. (Washington, 1947), vol. II, p. 
86; Rpt of Seventh Army Engr Sicily; Brief of Engr 
Plan, Incl 1 to Rpt of Seventh Army Engr Sicily; lnterv, 
Maj Gen Charles H. Bonesteel 111, 10 Feb 60. 

" Rpt, Shore Engineers in Sicily, 1st ESB files; Rpt 
of Seventh Army Engr Sicily; Ltr, Caffey to CG, FUSA, 
16 Jan 44; Hist 1st ESB. 

256 Hewitt Rpt, WNTF in Sicilian Campaign, p. 31; 
Rpt, Shore Engineers in Sicily, 1st ESB files; Ltr, 
Caffey to CG, FUSA, 16 Jan 44; 40th Engr C Rgt, Rpt 
of Engr Opns, 10 Jul- 18 Aug 43. 



SICILY: THE BEACHHEAD 



125 



Tripoli trained instructors who could 
return to their units and pass on their 
knowledge, but most such training was 
without the benefit of enemy mines. 
Warnings from the U.S. chief ordnance 
officer at AFHQ that aging explosives 
could become dangerously sensitive 
proved justified in a British attempt to 
ship enemy mines to the United States; 
while the mines were being loaded 
aboard a small coaster at Algiers the 
entire lot blew up, sinking the coaster 
and firing an ammunition ship at the 
next berth. 27 

On the whole, the troops scheduled 
for HUSKY were far better prepared to 
deal with mines than were those in 
Tunisia. Concern arose in some quar- 
ters lest overemphasis on mine warfare 
damage troop morale, but engineers 
were convinced that thorough instruc- 
tion was the best answer. Nor did they 
concur in the decision to restrict the 
use of live enemy mines in training. Col- 
onel Davidson believed that "realism in 
training [was] essential regardless of the 
risk to personnel and equipment," a 
view with which 15th Army Group 
agreed and which AFHQ accepted. 2 

Toward the end of June assault units 
began moving into their embarkation 
areas: CENT Force (45th Infantry Di- 
vision) at Oran, DIME (1st Infantry 
Division) at Algiers, and JOSS (3d Infan- 
try Division) at Bizerte. The initial as- 
sault — Seventh Army would have 82,502 
men ashore in Sicily by the end of 



D-day — included approximately 11,000 
engineers scheduled to land with the 
subtask forces, plus nearly 1,200 more 
in the floating reserve. Engineers with 
DIME Force numbered nearly 3,200. 
Another 4,300, plus Company A of the 
17th Armored Engineer Battalion, were 
with JOSS Force and 3,500 with CENT 
Force. About 1,350 engineer vehicles 
accompanied these troops on D-day. 
Additional engineer troops and vehi- 
cles were to reach the JOSS and DIME 
areas with the D plus 4 and D plus 8 
convoys. In North Africa 22 engineer 
units totaling 7,388 men stood by, ready 
to be called forward as required. 29 

The convoy carrying CENT Force 
sailed from Oran harbor on 5 July, and 
as it moved along the North African 
coast Dime and JOSS Force convoys 
joined. The faster ships feinted south 
along Cape Bon peninsula, while the 
slower vessels proceeded by more direct 
routes to a rendezvous area off the 
island of Gozo. On the ninth a steady 
wind began to blow out of the north 
and increased during the afternoon, 
piling up a heavy sea and raising seri- 
ous doubts that the invasion could pro- 
ceed. Then, during the night, the wind 
dropped. As H-hour approached the 
seas begain to setde and prospects for a 
successful landing brightened. 30 

D-day 

Before dawn on 10 July 1943, the 



2 Rpt of Seventh Army Engr Sicily; Seventh Army 
Rpt Sicily, p. A -4. 

28 Seventh Army Rpt Sicily, p. C— 4; Davidson, Pre- 
liminary Rpt of Seventh Army Engr on the Sicilian 
Opn, 23 Aug 43, and 1st Ind, HQ, 15th Army Gp, 6 
Sep 43; Ltr, AFHQ to AG, WD, 2 Oct 43, sub: Prelimi- 
nary Rpt of Seventh Army Engr on the Sicilian Opn, 
370.2 1 2 Sicily, Rpts on Opns, Aug 43 to Oct 43, AFHQ 
files. 



29 Seventh Army strength on Sicily on 23 August 
totaled 165,230 men, exclusive of 11,900 USAAF 
troops also on the island. Ltr, HQ, Seventh Army, to 
CG, NATOUSA, 22 Nov 43, sub: Date for Logistical 
Planning; Final Engr Troop List, Seventh Army, by 
Convoys, Engr Units Only, 28 Jun 43, G-3 Misc 
Papers, 1st ESB files. 

Morison, Sicily-Salemo-Anzio, pp. 62—63, 65, 
67-68. 



126 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



~\ 

L. Niscem/ 
\ 

Panto Olivo Airfield 

/ m f 
I Bbctri Airfield ^ 



Licata Airfield 




J 



GBiSj 



( 



Reaches 



E 36 Saiich 




Brsceri, 



E 53 r Shore 



GULF OF GELA 



Ml. 



E 40 Shore 



SICILIAN LANDING AREAS 

10 July 1943 



10 Miles 



10 Kilometers 




ScogHttf I 
Sqnta Crocl 



MAP 5 



assault waves of three American infan- 
try divisions landed along a forty-mile 
stretch of Sicilian beach. (Map 5) On 
the west the 3d Infantry Division (J OSS 
Force) straddled the small port of Licata, 
landing on five separate beaches. In the 
center, about seventeen miles east of 
Licata, the 1st Infantry Division (DIME 
Force) went in over six beaches just east 
of Gela, and on the division's left a 
Ranger force landed directly at Gela. 
The 45th Infantry Division (CENT Force) 
beached at eight points extending from 
Scoglitti halfway to Gela. Farther east, 
the British made simultaneous landings 
along another stretch of the Sicilian 
coast extending from Cape Passero 
almost to Syracuse. DIME Force went 
in on time at 0245, but weather slowed 
the other two forces. The wind had 
dropped to about fifteen miles an hour, 



but a 2 1/2-foot surf still ran along most 
beaches and a considerably higher one 
at Scoglitti. The initial landings on some 
beaches in the JOSS and CENT areas 
came Just as dawn was breaking at 
0550.^ 

Enemy strength on Sicily consisted 
of about ten divisions. The equivalent 
of about five were disposed in or near 
coastal defenses, and five were in mobile 
reserve. Most of the troops were dispir- 
ited Italians; only two divisions, both 
in reserve, were German. 32 



31 Seventh Army Rpt Sicily, p. 6—4; Morison, Sicily- 
Salerno-Anzio, p. 78; Combined Operations (Br), Digest 
of Some Notes and Reports from Opn Husky, repro- 
duced Oct 43 by Information Sect, Intel Div, OCE, 
SOS ETOUSA. 

32 Brig Gen A. C. Wedemeyer, Extracts from Rpt 
on Opn Husky, 28 Dec 43, Notes and Extracts, Husky. 



SICILY: THE BEACHHEAD 



127 



American assault troops swept 
through enemy shore defenses with lit- 
tle trouble. A few strands of barbed 
wire stretched across most of the 
beaches, and on some a few bands of 
antitank mines, but there were no man- 
made underwater obstacles and few 
antipersonnel mines or booby traps. 
Many concrete pillboxes, cleverly camou- 
flaged, well supplied, and well provided 
with communication trenches, existed, 
some so new that wooden forms still 
encased them. None proved very trou- 
blesome, mainly because the Italians 
manning them had little disposition to 
fight. 

Here and there infantrymen skir- 
mished briefly along the shoreline be- 
fore pushing inland, and at a number 
of points shore engineers joined in to 
clean out scattered pockets of resis- 
tance. 33 At some points the enemy had 
sections of beach under small-arms fire 
as the shore engineers came in, but for 
the most part only intermittent artil- 
lery fire and sporadic enemy air action 
harassed the beaches. No enemy strong- 
point held out stubbornly, and shore 
engineers were soon free to go about 
organizing their beaches. By nightfall 
all three subtask forces had beachheads 
that stretched two to four miles inland, 
and they had taken 4,265 prisoners. 
The cost had been relatively small: 58 
killed, 199 wounded, and 700 missing. 34 



11 On Cent beaches, two officers and two enlisted 
men, 1st Lt. Keith E. Miller, 2d Lt. George S. Spohn, 
T/5 Robert L. Beall, and Sgt. Warren W. Beanish of 
the 40th Engineers won Distinguished Service Crosses 
for their part in taking pillboxes that had the beach 
under fire. 

34 Seventh Army GO 3, 25 Jan 44; 1st ESB GO 8, 27 
Aug 43; USMA study, Opns in Sicily and Italy — 
Invasion of Sicily. 



Joss Beaches 

From west to east J OSS beaches were 
named Red, Green, Yellow, and Blue. 
The first two lay west of Licata, the 
other two east of it, and all were the 
responsibility of the 36th Engineer 
Shore Group. Along the 4,500-yard 
length of Red Beach ran a sandbar, and 
between the sandbar and beach was a 
runnel 100 to 300 feet wide and, in 
many places, more than 6 feet deep. 

About 0440, nearly two hours after 
the first wave of infantrymen had 
splashed ashore from LCVPs, shore 
searchlights that had been playing over 
the water off Red Beach winked out. 
At 0510 heavy fire broke out along the 
beach and a destroyer began shelling 
shore positions. An LCT carrying engi- 
neers of the 36th Engineer Shore Group 
joined five others carrying medium 
tanks to make the run in to the beach, 
covered by two destroyers coursing along 
the shoreline belching out a smoke 
screen as dawn broke. The six LCTs 
grounded successfully, the tanks lum- 
bered off into 3 1/2 feet of water and 
waded ashore. The engineers discov- 
ered that the beach, in places only 
twenty feet wide, consisted of soft sand 
strewn with large boulders. Behind it 
rose cliffs fifteen to sixty feet high, with 
only one exit road usable for wheeled 
vehicles, a steep, sandy wagon track that 
led through vineyards and fields of 
ripening tomatoes and melons to the 
coastal highway some three miles away. 
The first six LCTs did better than craft 
of successive waves. Some stuck on the 
offshore bar and discharged trucks into 
water that drowned them out — thirty- 
two of the sixty-five vehicles that disem- 
barked for Red Beach from nine LCTs 
failed to bridge the water gap. 



128 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



Ashore, congestion and confusion 
mounted. Tractors had to drag vehi- 
cles over the sandy beach exit road 
while recovery of stalled vehicles was 
slow and unorganized, for no definite 
preparations for this work had been 
made. Some sections of beach became 
choked off completely. T— 2 recovery 
units, tanks, and DUKWs tried to un- 
ravel the problem; D— 7 dozers, well 
suited to the task, were inland working 
on beach exit roads, but the smaller 
R— 4s proved ineffective in the soft 
sand. Vehicles stalled or awaiting bet- 
ter exit routes soon jammed the beaches 
with supplies. As congestion increased 
and more landing craft broached, many 
men stood idle, uncertain what to do. 

Offshore an LST tried to unload its 
ponton floats, but the surf was too 
rough and the floats washed ashore. 
The craft then tried to get nearer the 
beach to discharge without the cause- 
way but grounded fifty to sixty feet out 
in about four feet of water. The first 
truck off stalled ten feet from the LST's 
ramp. Two DUKWs recovered the truck, 
but a motor crane stalled in about the 
same place. When DUKWs could not 
move the crane, the LST pulled off- 
shore for the night. Next morning two 
D— 7 tractors spent some five hours 
pulling the crane ashore and then suc- 
ceeded in moving the naval ponton 
causeway into position. 

Here, as at other beaches, the cause- 
ways proved of great value once they 
were in use. Vehicles were driven ashore 
over them, and an LST could unload 
in about two hours. But the causeways 
did not always hold head on against 
the shore. As one LST pulled off, the 
causeways tended to broach before 
another LST could come up. After 
forty-eight hours broached craft and 



stalled vehicles still choked Red Beach, 
and on D plus 3 it was abandoned. The 
only enemy opposition had been Mes- 
serschmitt 109s, each carrying a single 
bomb, that made eight bombing and 
strafing raids during D-day. The air- 
craft had caused delays but no casualties. 

Halfway between Red Beach and 
Licata lay Green Beach, also difficult 
but selected because it could take assault 
units within close striking distance of 
the port of Licata. Green consisted of 
two half-moon beaches, each about 
1 ,000 feet long, separated by a point of 
land jutting out from the shore. The 
coastal highway was about 11/2 miles 
away. Offshore bars were no problem 
but exits were, for behind the beaches 
towered abrupt bluffs more than 100 
feet high. One platoon of Company C, 
36th Engineers, along with a naval 
beach detachment and some medical 
personnel, supported the landing of the 
2d Battalion, 15th Infantry, and the 3d 
Ranger Battalion. As expected, exit 
difficulties ruled out Green Beach for 
supply operations, and twelve hours 
after the initial landings the beach was 
closed. The small engineer shore party 
there rejoined the 1st Battalion, 36th 
Engineers, on Red Beach, taking along 
twenty-six captured Italian soldiers. But 
Green Beach paid off, for the men 
landed, took Licata, a small port that 
offered facilities for handling five LSTs 
simultaneously, and by 1600 on D-day 
an LST was unloading. 

At Yellow and Blue beaches things 
went much better. Yellow Beach, cen- 
tering about six miles east of Licata, 
was probably the best American beach. 
The sand there had no troublesome 
boulders, and the main coastal high- 
way lay only some 400 yards away across 
slightly rising sandy loam planted in 



SICILY: THE BEACHHEAD 



129 



grapes and tomatoes. Blue Beach, be- 
ginning about a mile farther east, was 
almost as good. After the initial assault 
most of JOSS Force landed over these 
two beaches, and those elements of the 
36th Engineer Shore Group that sup- 
ported landings on the other JOSS 
beaches soon moved to Yellow and 
Blue. Some LSTs sent vehicles ashore 
over a naval ponton causeway, but most 
stood one-half to three-quarters of a 
mile out and unloaded on the LCTs or 
DUKWs. DUKWs were the workhorses 
on the beach, invaluable because they 
could eliminate much of the man-han- 
dling of supplies. Nearly all carried 
more than their rated 2 1/2 tons, and 
some went in with so little freeboard 
that the wake of a passing landing craft 
could have swamped them. At least one, 
overloaded with 105-mm. shells, sank 
as soon as it drove off a ramp. 

The 36th Engineer Shore Group 
headquarters landed at 0714 on D-day 
and established itself on a hill overlook- 
ing both Blue and Yellow beaches. By 
noon the shore group had consolidated 
battalion beach dumps into regimental 
dumps behind the two beaches. Shore 
engineers worked throughout the night 
and into D plus 1 with only temporary 
halts during enemy bombing raids. 
During the afternoon of D-day, the 2d 
Battalion, 540th Engineers, landed along 
with two platoons of the 2d Naval Beach 
Battalion, and before noon on 1 1 July 
units of the 382d Port Battalion (TC) 
entered Licata port to clear LST ber- 
things. As order emerged and supplies 
began to move smoothly, it became evi- 
dent that Seventh Army could be sup- 
plied across the beaches so long as the 
seas remained calm. During the first 
three days 20,470 men, 6,614 tons of 
supplies, and 3,752 vehicles landed at 



Licata or across the JOSS beaches. In 
the same period, more than 200 
wounded and over 500 POWs were 
evacuated to North Africa. 35 

Dime Beaches 

Seventeen miles east of Licata a wave 
of Rangers went in at Gela at H-hour 
(0245), a second wave following within 
a few minutes. One-half hour later two 
waves of the 39th Engineer Combat 
Regiment were ashore preparing to 
clear away beach obstacles and demol- 
ish pillboxes. Some mortar men, pro- 
viding support for the Rangers, com- 
prised the fifth wave, which went in 
about H plus 1, while shore engineers 
from the 1st Battalion, 531st Engineers, 
landed in the sixth wave. By dawn 
(0515) Rangers and the 39th Engineers 
were digging in on their objective on 
the north edge of Gela, and shore engi- 
neers were preparing the beaches for 
an influx of cargo. 3f> 

Just to the east the 16th and 26th 
Regimental Combat Teams, 1st Infan- 
try Division, landed simultaneously with 
the Rangers, while the 18th Regimen- 
tal Combat Team and elements of the 
2d Armored Division lay offshore in 
floating reserve. In these landings divi- 
sional engineers, attached by platoons 
to infantry battalions, went in with the 
assault waves. The 1st and 2d Platoons, 
Company A, 1st Engineer Combat Bat- 
talion, landed with the 16th Regimen- 



35 Opns Rpt, 36th Engr C Gp, 10- 18 Jul 43, 1 Aug 
43; Notes and Extracts, Husky; Maj Roy C. Conner, 
First Partial Rpt, Observations, in Husky — Joss Task 
Force (8 - 12 Jul)— Rpt of Observations, EUCOM Engr 
files; Hist 1st ESB.Jun 42-Sep45; Hewitt Rpt, WNTF 
in Sicilian Campaign; Seventh Army Rpt Sicily, pp. 
6-10. 

M Hist 39th Engr C Rgt; Hist 1st Bn, 531st Engr 
Shore Rgt. 



130 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



tal Combat Team; the 1st and 2d Pla- 
toons, Company C, were with the 26th 
Regimental Combat Team. These engi- 
neers were to clear enemy obstructions, 
but they found little wire, few antiper- 
sonnel mines, and no artificial under- 
water obstacles. Enemy resistance was 
light, and combat engineers soon disap- 
peared inland with the infantry. Some 
of them removed demolition charges 
on bridges leading into Gela. 37 

DIME beaches were much like Yel- 
low and Blue beaches in the JOSS sec- 
tor except in one important respect — 
the main coastal highway was nearly two 
miles away. Enemy defenses in the area 
were somewhat more developed than 
at other points on the southern shore, 
but pillboxes gave little trouble to in- 
fantry-engineer assault teams, and the 
only underwater obstacles were off- 
shore sandbars. 

Mines proved somewhat troublesome, 
largely for want of SCR— 625s. Mine 
detectors belonging to the 39th Engi- 
neers were on trucks or other vehicles 
that did not land until D plus 1 , while 
the 531st Engineers carried a number 
of detectors ashore only to find that 
salt spray had short-circuited many of 
them. Most of the mines lay in regular 
patterns and were not booby-trapped, 
but some were buried as deep as five 
feet. On one Gela beach, engineers 
found six rows of Teller mines spaced 
three yards apart; five Navy bulldozers 
were lost in this mine belt. Mines al- 
so destroyed a number of trucks and 
DUKWs — some because operators ig- 
nored the warning tapes the engineers 
had put down. No antipersonnel mines 



37 Hist 531st Engr Shore Rgt, 11 Jun-16 Jul 43; 
Maj. T. T. Crowley and Capt. G. C. Burch, Eight Stars 
to Victory, Operations of 1st Engineer Combat Battalion in 
World War II, pp. 45, 47. 



were found on the beaches themselves, 
where, said one observer, they would 
have been "horribly effective," but some 
in the dunes and cover just back of the 
beaches caused casualties. 38 

While the 1st Battalion, 531st Engi- 
neers, landed at Gela in support of the 
Rangers, the 2d and 3d Battalions fol- 
lowed the assault waves of the 16th and 
26th Regimental Combat Teams ashore. 
The infantry moved inland as rapidly 
as possible, while the shore engineers 
remained behind to organize the 
beaches. The shore engineers landed 
before dawn, but not until midmorn- 
ing could landing craft stop ferrying 
men ashore and start bringing in cargo. 
In the interim shore engineers cut exit 
roads, cleared away mines and other 
obstacles, set up beach markers to guide 
landing craft, established beach com- 
munications systems and traffic control 
measures, and organized work parties. 39 

As at Joss, mishaps caused craft to 
broach and vehicles to stall in the water 
off DIME Beach, but the primary dis- 
ruption was an enemy counterattack 
through most of D plus 1 . 40 During the 



38 Chf Engr, Combined Opns (Br), Lessons Learned 
from Husky, 25 Aug 43, app. B, Description of Cer- 
tain Beaches, G— 3 Misc Papers, 1st ESB files. The 
foregoing is the primary source for all beach descrip- 
tions in this chapter. Hist 1st Bn, 531st Engr Shore 
Rgt; Ltr, Bonesteel to Moore, 22 Jul 43; Davidson, 
Preliminary Rpt of Seventh Army Engr on the Sicil- 
ian Opn, 23 Aug 43; Hist 39th Engr C Rgt, 10 Jul- 18 
Aug 43; HQ, Seventh Army, Lessons Learned in Sicil- 
ian Campaign; Hewitt Rpt, WNTF in Sicilian Cam- 
paign, p. 56. 

3 ' Brig Gen N. D. Cota, Landing Data, Dime Beach, 
app. 5 to Observation of Opn Husky, 4-31 Jul 43, 
G-3 Misc Papers, 1 st ESB files; Hist 531 st Engr Shore 
Rgt, 11 Jun-16Jul 43; Hist IstBn, 531st Engr Shore 
Rgt. 

40 Seventh Army Rpt Sicily, p. 6—4; Crowley and 
Burch, Eight Stars to Victory, pp. 47-48; Hist 531st 
Engr Shore Rgt; Morison, SicUy-Salerno-Anzio, pp. 99, 
103ff; Comments on Husky— Joss Task Force (8- 12 
Jul) — Rpt of Observations. 



SICILY: THE BEACHHEAD 



131 



early hours of D-day Italian guns laid 
intermittent artillery fire. on the beaches, 
destroying a pier at Gela that planners 
had counted on for unloading LSTs. 
Then at 0830 enemy armor started 
moving south out of Niscemi toward 
Gela. One column drove to within a 
mile or two of the coastal highway 
before paratroopers, elements of the 
16th Infantry, and the guns of the 
cruiser Boise and the destroyer Jeffers 
stopped it. In the meantime, a second 
column of about twenty-five light Ital- 
ian tanks approached Gela from Ponte 
Olivo. The destroyer Shubrick knocked 
out three but others came on, and the 
defense section of the 1st Battalion, 
531st Engineers, moved forward to 
reinforce the Rangers and the 39th 
Engineers. In the ensuing fight the 
shore engineers scored several hits with 
bazookas, and when nine or ten Italian 
tanks drove into Gela, the Rangers 
drove them off. 

With enemy armor in the vicinity, the 
greatest need ashore was for tanks and 
artillery, most of which were still aboard 
LSTs. Early on D-day LST— 338 ran a 
ponton causeway ashore. The cause- 
way's crew rigged it amid falling shells, 
and by 1030 the LST had unloaded and 
pulled away. But before another LST 
could take its place the causeway began 
to drift, and repositioning it cost valu- 
able time. The lack of adequate anchors 
for the seaward ends of the ponton 
causeways was especially felt on DIME 
beaches, where plans for using the Gela 
pier had limited the number of cause- 
ways to three. Artillery pieces had to be 
ferried ashore by DUKWs while tanks, 
too heavy for DUKWs, came in on 
LCTs and LCMs. As the afternoon 
wore on, the surf became littered with 
abandoned vehicles and broached land- 



ing craft and the beach clogged with 
stalled vehicles and piles of materiel. 

Late in the afternoon of D-day Gen- 
eral Patton ordered ashore KOOL Force, 
the floating reserve consisting of the 
18th Regimental Combat Team and 
two combat commands of the 2d Ar- 
mored Division. The movement did not 
get under way until about 1800; by 
0200 on 1 1 July men on the beach, 
exhausted after working around the 
clock, began to drop off to sleep, stall- 
ing KOOL landings until daylight. In 
the meantime the enemy, now rein- 
forced by larger German tanks of the 
Hermann Goering Division, prepared to 
launch a new attack on Gela. 

Few antitank guns or 2d Armored 
Division tanks were ashore when the 
enemy struck on the morning of D plus 
1 , and the only American tanks engaged 
were five Shermans an LCT had 
brought ashore about 1030. The Ger- 
man tanks fanned out across the Gela 
plain, overran American infantry guard- 
ing the beachhead perimeter, and rol- 
led on toward the beaches, some lob- 
bing shells into the mass of vehicles, 
materiel, and men assembled there. 
Divisional artillery, an infantry cannon 
company, the five Sherman tanks, and 
fire from cruisers and destroyers halted 
the Germans. At 1130 two causeways 
were operating and tanks rolled ashore 
over them. The enemy attack faltered 
shortly after noon, but sporadic fight- 
ing continued into the night. 

On the beaches conditions had already 
begun to improve, and by 1600 on D 
plus 2 the D-day convoy had completely 
unloaded. By D plus 3 order prevailed, 
and, with the arrival of the 540th Engi- 
neer Combat Regiment (less one bat- 
talion), the shore engineers of the 53 1st 
were able to concentrate on keeping the 



132 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



beaches clear. Casualties in the 531st 
were somewhat higher than in any 
other shore regiment during the land- 
ings: as of 16 July the regiment had 
losses of 22 men killed, 68 wounded, 
and 2 missing. 41 

The 540th Engineers took over re- 
sponsibility for road work, mine re- 
moval, beach dump operations, and 
other jobs inland from the beaches. It 
also operated the tiny port of Gela, 
where U.S. Navy engineers had an- 
chored two ponton causeway sections 
alongside the damaged pier for unload- 
ing LCTs and LSTs. 

The 531st Engineers' beach opera- 
tions settled down to routine: clearing 
the beaches, operating dumps, guard- 
ing POWs, removing waterproofing 
from vehicles, and protecting the beach 
area. One of the most efficient means 
of moving supplies across the beaches 
was cargo nets which enabled DUKWs 
to be unloaded with one sweep of a 
crane. DUKWs equipped with A-frames, 
a nonstandard item manufactured and 
installed in the theater, proved particu- 
larly valuable. 42 

After 11 July enemy strafing and 
bombing attacks subsided, and, favored 
by ideal weather, supply across JOSS 
and DIME beaches could have contin- 
ued indefinitely except for very heavy 
equipment. But Palermo fell on 22 July, 
and the beaches lost their importance 
rapidly. They continued to function 
during the first week in August, but 



41 Cota, Landing Data, Dime Beach; Hist 531st Engr 
CRgt. 

42 Rpt, Shore Engineers in Sicily, 1st ESB files; Hist 
531st Engr C Rgt; Information from Capt Napp, S— 3, 
540th Engr Shore Rgt, contained in Husky — Joss Task 
Force (8- 12 Jul) — Rpt of Observations; Rpt of Sev- 
enth Army Engr Sicily; Seventh Army Rpt Sicily, pp. 
6-10. 



DIME averaged less than a hundred tons 
a day. On 7 August DIME beaches closed 
down in favor of JOSS beaches and cap- 
tured ports on the north coast. 43 

Cent Beaches 

Two groups of beaches ten miles 
apart provided the landing sites for the 
45th Infantry Division in the CENT 
area. One group of beaches (Red, Green, 
and Yellow) north of Scoglitti had been 
chosen for proximity to Biscari Airfield, 
about eight miles inland; the group 
south of Scoglitti (Green 2, Yellow 2), 
for proximity to Comiso Airfield, some 
fourteen miles away. 

The 120th Engineer Combat Bat- 
talion, attached by platoons to infantry 
battalions, began landing on the north- 
ern beaches at 0345, H-hour having 
been set back sixty minutes in this sec- 
tor because of heavy seas. The engi- 
neers hastily cleared sections of the 
beaches, reconnoitered for exit routes, 
and knocked out enemy pillboxes. By 
noon two companies of the 19th Engi- 
neer Combat Regiment had come a- 
shore. Though earmarked to repair 
inland airfields, they helped on the 
beaches until the airfields were taken. 
The men of the 19th Engineers were 
doubly welcome because of their three 
rare D— 7 bulldozers and three road 
graders, but most of this equipment 
could not land until the following day 
because of high seas and trouble with 
causeways. 44 

The landings on CENT beaches were 
the most difficult in Sicily. One trouble 



+s Rate of Discharge in Long Tons from Ports and 
Beaches in Sicily, app. D to Seventh Army Adm Sitrep, 
10 Jul 43-18 Aug 43; Rpt, Shore Engineers in Sicily, 
1st ESB files; Hist 531st Engr C Rgt. 

44 Hist 19th Engr C Gp, Oct 42 -Jan 44. 



SICILY: THE BEACHHEAD 



133 



was the loading plan, which followed 
the U.S. amphibious standing operat- 
ing procedure, calling for assault battal- 
ions to be unit-loaded aboard a single 
ship. This plan did not apply to the 
120th Engineer Combat Battalion, 
which sailed aboard nineteen different 
ships, but it did apply to the assault 
units to which the combat engineers 
were attached. 45 The system had obvi- 
ous theoretical tactical advantages, but 
at Sicily practical disadvantages tended 
to outweigh them. No single ship car- 
ried enough landing craft to put a full 
assault wave in the water. As a result, 
landing craft from one ship had to 
grope about in the predawn darkness 
seeking other ships or the landing craft 
that formed the rest of the assault wave. 

Waves and surf higher and rougher 
than in the JOSS and DIME areas made 
offshore rendezvous at the CENT 
beaches more difficult. Well-trained 
landing craft crews might have been 
equal to the offshore problems, but at 
least half the 45th Infantry Division's 
coxswains had been replaced just as the 
division left the United States. The high 
surf took a fearful toll of landing craft. 
By noon on D plus 1, in one sector 109 
LCVPs and LCMs out of an original 
175 were damaged, stranded, sunk, or 
missing. Along one stretch of beach one 
craft was stranded an average of every 
twenty-five yards. 46 

Many of the landing craft that reached 
shore missed their mark because of 



heavy surf, too few landmarks, and a 
strong southeast current; part of one 
regimental combat team (including the 
commander) landed six miles northwest 
of its assigned beach. The 40th En- 
gineers' shore group, mounted in the 
United States, had not instructed its 
components to develop whatever beach 
they landed on. When men of the 40th 
found themselves on the wrong beaches, 
many searched along the shoreline for 
the right ones. But even those who 
stayed where they landed and set to 
work on exit routes could not build 
roads fast enough to handle the cargo 
coming ashore. Exits had to cross a belt 
of sand dunes up to a thousand yards 
wide, and the main coastal highway was 
several miles away. 

The CENT beaches soon became heav- 
ily congested, and many shore engineer 
units shifted their location — some sev- 
eral times — to find better exit routes. 
Each move cost the shore groups time, 
control over their organization, discip- 
line, and equipment. Naval beach bat- 
talions, for instance, had heavy equip- 
ment that could not be shifted about 
easily. 47 

D— 7 angledozers had to build most 
exit roads at the beaches, for the smaller 
R— 4s again proved too weak for either 
road construction or vehicle salvage. 
The engineer regiments working the 
beaches had two D— 7s per lettered 
engineer company and could easily 
have used a third. Cyclone wire and 



45 Opus Rpt, 120th Engr C Bn, 1 May-31 Oct 43. 

46 HQ, Combined Operations (Br), Bull 4/1, Notes 
on the Planning and Assault Phases of the Sicilian 
Campaign; Morison, Sicily-Salerno-Anzio, pp. 127-28, 
138, 140; Hist 40th EngrC Rgt, 1 Apr42-ll Feb 44; 
AFHQ, Notes on Husky Landings, 23 Jul 43, G-3 
Misc Papers, 1st ESB files; Hewitt Rpt, WNTF in Sicil- 
ian Campaign, pp. 39, 48. 



47 AFHQ, Notes on Husky Landings, 23 Jul 43; 
Memo, Brig Gen A. C. Wedemeyer, Chf, Strategy and 
Policy Gp, WDGS, for CofS, 24 Aug 43, sub: Ob- 
server's Rpt, 319.1, binder, AGF files; Hewitt Rpt, 
WNTF in Sicilian Campaign, p. 59; Hist 40th Engr C 
Rgt, lOJul-18 Aug 43; Memo, HQ, 1st ESB, For Unit 
Commanders, 2 Jun 43, sub: Remarks on Landing 
Opns. 



134 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 





Landing Heavy Equipment Over the Causeway at Scoglitti 



Sommerfeld mat that came ashore on 
sleds were used to surface sandy roads. 
Engineers also cut and laid cane to 
make sandy roads passable. 

DUKWs carried most supplies inland. 
Bleeding the tires to ten pounds of 
pressure enabled the craft to cross the 
sandy beaches but cut tire life to about 
3,500 miles. Other supplies had to be 
manhandled, mosdy by POW volunteers, 
and dragged to the dumps on sleds 
hauled by bulldozers. Not much went 
into the beach dumps on D-day, and 
before D plus 1 ended CENT beaches 
were hopelessly jammed. That night 
and the next day the original Green, 
Red, and Yellow beaches were aban- 
doned, and unloading moved some 
three miles to the southeast, where the 
inland roadnet was more accessible. 



Operations continued at new beaches 
in the Scoglitti area for another week 
before events inland and farther west 
along the coast closed the Cent beaches 
permanently. 48 

During the first three days of the 
invasion 66,235 men, 17,766 dead- 
weight tons of cargo, and 7,416 vehi- 
cles went ashore over Seventh Army 
beaches, while 666 U.S. Army troops 
and 614 POWs were evacuated. By the 
end of July the 1st Engineer Special 
Brigade had put ashore 111 ,824 men, 



48 Hist 40th Engr C Rgt, 10 Jul- 18 Aug 43; Cota, 
Landing Data, Dime Beach; AFHQ, Notes on Husky 
Landings, 23 Jul 43; Information from Capt Kennedy, 
CO, 361st QM Co (DUKW), in Husky— Joss Task 
Force (8-12 Jul) — Rpt of Observations; Info Sect, 
Intel Div, OCE, SOS ETOUSA, Answers to Engrs 
Questionnaire, 15 Sep 43, North African Opns. 



SICILY: THE BEACHHEAD 



135 



104,734 tons of cargo, and 21,512 
vehicles, and had shipped out to North 
Africa 1,772 wounded and 27,939 
POWs. The performance quieted fears 
that the beaches would be unable to 
support the Seventh Army. 49 Around 
17 July the 1st Engineer Special Brigade, 
on orders from General Patton, began 
to gather all Seventh Army supply activi- 
ties and many service units under its 
command, taking over all unloading 
and supply at DIME, CENT, and JOSS 
beaches. The brigade's beach opera- 
tions on Sicily demonstrated that Allied 
planners would not have to be so closely 
bound by requirements for ports in pre- 



4a Rpt, Shore Engineers in Sicily, app. B, 1st ESB 
files; Seventh Army Rpt Sicily, p. E— 12. 



paring for future moves against the 
Continent. 

Despite the generally favorable con- 
ditions for amphibious operations in 
Sicily, the engineers still suffered from 
their own inexperience. The frequent 
inability to adapt existing plans and pro- 
cedures to new conditions in the midst 
of a developing situation led to contin- 
ued delays in supply movement off the 
beaches. The haste of preparations and 
the curtain of security for the Sicilian 
landings also brought many engineers 
their first glimpse of new types of equip- 
ment on the busy beaches. They soon 
would have to apply what they learned 
in new thrusts onto the Italian main- 
land against a still determined German 
enemy. 



CHAPTER VII 

Sicily: The Drive to Messina 



By 15 July the Allies held a beach- 
head stretching from Syracuse to Licata, 
and Seventh Army, strengthened by the 
D plus 4 convoy, was preparing to break 
out of its beachhead. General Patton 
created the Provisional Corps, consist- 
ing of the 3d Infantry Division, the 3d 
Ranger Battalion, the 5th Armored 
Field Artillery Group, and elements of 
the 2d Armored and 82d Airborne 
Divisions, to sweep around the western 
coast of Sicily and to move against 
Palermo from the south and southwest. 
The II Corps, initially consisting of the 
1st and 45th Infantry Divisions, was to 
strike across central Sicily to the north 
coast east of Palermo. The attacks be- 
gan on 17 July, 1 

During Provisional Corps' drive on 
Palermo, which met little opposition, 
combat engineers speedily bypassed 
several destroyed bridges and removed 
explosives from others captured intact. 
Divisional engineer bulldozers and mine 
detectors paced the corps' advance, for 
a time without corps engineer support, 
because Provisional Corps originally 
had no corps engineer organization. 
On 20 July the 20th Engineer Combat 
Regiment joined Provisional Corps; one 



1 In addition to Garland and Smyth, Sicily and the 
Surrender of Italy, the general sources for this chapter 
are: Seventh Army Rpt Sicily; Rpt of Seventh Army 
Engr Sicily; II Corps Engr Rpt, 10 Jul- 1 8 Aug 43. 



battalion supported 3d Division engi- 
neers, the other 2d Armored Division 
engineers. 2 

Palermo fell on 22 July. Allied bombs 
had left the port with only 30 percent 
of its normal capacity. Forty-four ves- 
sels — ships, barges, and small craft — lay 
sunk in the harbor, and bomb craters 
pitted quays and railway tracks. On 23 
July the 20th Engineer Combat Regi- 
ment set about providing berths for 
thirty-six LSTs and fourteen Liberty 
ships, and naval personnel began sal- 
vage work in the roadstead and ship 
channels. At the port engineers bull- 
dozed debris from pier areas and exit 
routes, filled bomb craters, and cut 
steps into the masonry piers to accom- 
modate LST ramps; they also cleared 
city streets of debris, leveled badly dam- 
aged buildings, and laid water lines to 
the piers. They cut away superstruc- 
tures of some ships sunk alongside the 
quays and built timber ramps across the 
scuttled hulks. Eventually Liberty ships 
moored alongside the derelicts and 
unloaded. 3 



2 Rpts, 20th Engr C Rgt to CG, 3d Div, 18, 22, and 
28 Jul 43, sub: Action of 20th Engineer Combat 
Regiment, 10-17 Jul 43, 3d Inf Div files; Hist Reds, 
Prov Corps, Seventh Army, 15 Jul-20 Aug 43. 

3 Hist 20th Engr C Bn, 17 May-17 Jun 45. (Orga- 
nized in August 1942, the 20th Engineer Combat Regi- 
ment was broken up on 15 January 1944, with the 
regiment's 1st Battalion being redesignated the 20th 
Engineer Combat Battalion.) Chf Engr, 15th Army 



SICILY: THE DRIVE TO MESSINA 



137 



On the morning of 23 July, the day 
after Provisional Corps captured Paler- 
mo, elements of II Corps reached the 
north coast of Sicily. A regimental com- 
bat team of the 45th Infantry Division 
entered the town of Termini Imerese, 
thirty-one miles east of Palermo on 
Highway 113, the coastal road between 
Palermo and Messina. The 1st Division 
reached Petralia on Highway 120, an 
inland road about twenty miles south 
of Highway 113. 

That same day, General Alexander 
changed the direction of American 
forces. He had originally ordered Pat- 
ton's Seventh Army to Palermo and the 
north coast to protect the left flank of 
Montgomery's British Eighth Army 
drive on Messina. On 23 July, becom- 
ing aware that Montgomery's forces 
were not strong enough to overrun the 
Germans in front of Eighth Army, 
Alexander directed Patton to turn his 
army to the east and advance on Messina 
along the axis of Highways 113 and 
1 20. Patton lost no time. The two divi- 
sions of Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley's II 
Corps, already in position athwart the 
two highways and soon to be bolstered 
by units of the Provisional Corps, were 
in motion before nightfall. 

Supply Over the Beaches 

At the outset supplies for the Ameri- 
can drive on Messina had to come from 
dumps at small ports and beaches on the 
south coast — Porto Empedocle, Licata, 
and Gela — because the first coasters did 
not reach Palermo until 28 July. The 
agency responsible for logistical support 



Gp, Notes on Engr Opns in Sicily, no. 3, 10 Sep 43; 
Brig Gen C. R. Moore, Rpt of Observations in North 
Africa and Sicily, 9 Sep 43. 



was still the 1st Engineer Special Brigade, 
acting as SOS, Seventh Army, under 
the general supervision of the army's 
G-4. 4 

Once the attack out of the beachhead 
began, the most critical supply prob- 
lem was not unloading supplies but mov- 
ing them forward to the using troops, 
a problem compounded by prearranged 
shipments that did not reflect reality. 
The 1st Engineer Special Brigade soon 
was burdened with unneeded materiel. 

Trained and equipped to unload sup- 
plies across the beaches and through 
the small ports on Sicily's southern shore, 
the 1st Engineer Special Brigade per- 
formed efficiently after overcoming 
earlier problems at the beaches. But the 
brigade also had to stock and operate 
Seventh Army depots inland at points 
convenient to the combat forces, and 
there were never enough trucks on 
Sicily. 5 

Railroads became important in mov- 
ing supplies inland to support the rapid 
advance. Lines from Porto Empedocle 
and Licata converged not far from 
Caltanissetta, a town near the center of 
the island and about thirty miles inland. 
Seventh Army captured the lines intact, 
and Transportation Corps railway 
troops had supplies rolling over them 
from the beaches immediately. The 
dumps were opened at Caltanissetta on 
19 July. Beyond this point German 
demolitions limited the use of railways, 
and supplies had to be trucked to for- 
ward corps dumps. 

The using services, even the engi- 



4 HQ, Force 343, FO 1, 18 Jun 43, Engr Annex; 
Rpt, Caffey, Shore Engineers in Sicily; Moore, Rpt of 
Observations, 9 Sep 43. 

5 Ltr, HQ, Seventh Army, to CG, NATOUSA, 22 
Nov 43, sub: Data for Logistical Planning; Bradley,;! 
Soldier's Story, p. 145. 



138 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



neers, were critical of the 1st Engineer 
Special Brigade's inland dumps, com- 
plaining that they could not find needed 
items. The 1st Engineer Combat Bat- 
talion, supporting the 1st Infantry Divi- 
sion, reported sending its trucks back 
to the beaches for needed materiel no 
less than four times. Ordnance officers 
complained that forward dumps were 
overstocked with small-arms ammuni- 
tion (which the brigade moved First 
because it was easiest to handle), while 
they urgently needed artillery ammuni- 
tion. 6 

Whatever the deficiencies, the 
beaches, especially at Porto Empedocle 
and Licata, carried a heavy supply re- 
sponsibility throughout the Sicilian 
campaign, mainly because the cam- 
paign was short and the rehabilitation 
of Palermo slow. An early and impor- 
tant activity at the beaches was supply- 
ing aviation gasoline to the Ponte Olivo 
and Comiso Airfields. The chief engi- 
neer, 15th Army Group, termed the 
work of the 696th Engineer Petroleum 
Distribution Company in building fuel 
pipelines and tanks at Gela "the out- 
standing new engineer feature of the 
campaign." 7 

A small reconnaissance party of pe- 
troleum engineers landed on Dime 
beaches on D-day, and by 18 July all 
the men and equipment of the 696th 
were ashore. Engineers used the dam- 
aged Gela pier to berth shallow-draft 
tankers in about seventeen feet of water. 
The company laid discharge lines along 



the pier, erected two 5,000-barrel bolted- 
steel storage tanks on shore, and by 21 
July completed a four-inch pipeline to 
Ponte Olivo Airfield, about seven miles 
away. The first tanker, originally sched- 
uled to arrive off Gela on 18 July, did 
not actually begin to discharge until 24 
July. Two days later a 22-mile pipeline 
to Comiso Airfield was also completed. 
About the same time a detachment 
from the 696th erected facilities for 
receiving, storing, and canning gaso- 
line at Porto Empedocle. 

The petroleum engineers had wanted 
their equipment shipped in two equal 
parts on two coasters, each accompa- 
nied by some of their experts, but the 
equipment arrived in seven different 
ships at several different beaches — some 
as far afield as the British port of Syra- 
cuse. Workers at the beach dumps were 
unfamiliar with the POL equipment 
and had so much difficulty gathering it 
that the 696th had to send men to 
search for items along the beaches. As 
late as 21 July the company had found 
only 60 percent of its materiel and had 
to improvise elbows and other fittings 
to complete the pipelines. 8 

Bailey bridges had proven their worth 
in the final days of the Tunisian cam- 
paign. Seventh Army brought several 
sets to Sicily, though some arrived with 
vital parts missing. The main advan- 
tage of the Bailey — one of the most val- 
ued pieces of equipment in World War 
II — was its adaptability. It was made of 
welded lattice panels, each ten feet 



6 Seventh Army Rpt Sicily, p. E-7; Hist 1st Engr C 
Bn, Sicilian Campaign, 10 Jul-Dec 43; Lida Mayo, 
The Ordnance Department; On Beachhead and Battlefront, 
United States Army in World War II (Washington, 
1968), p. 167. 

7 Chf Engr, 15th Army Gp, Notes on Engr Opns in 
Sicily, no. 3, Sep 43. 



8 Rpt, Capt M. D. Altgelt to Lt Col S. A. Potter, Jr., 
Chf, C&Q Planning, 5 Oct 43, sub: Report Covering 
Trip to North Africa (POL Inspection) with extracts 
from six important documents pertaining to 
Husky POL; Hist 696th Engr Pet Dist Co, 1 Sep 42- 
30 Apr 44. 



SICILY: THE DRIVE TO MESSINA 



139 



long, joined together with steel pins to 
form girders of varying length and 
strength. The girders could be up to 
three panels wide and high. The Bailey 
could accommodate a great variety of 
loads and spans; it could be erected to 
carry twenty -eight tons over a 1 70-foot 
span, or as much as seventy-eight tons 
over a 120-foot span. The bridges were 
designated according to the number of 
parallel panels and stories in each girder. 
A double-single (DS) Bailey was two 
panels wide and one story high, a triple- 
double (TD) three panels wide and two 
stories high. Engineers could assemble 
and launch these bridges entirely from 
the near shore. A light falsework of 
paneling served as a launching nose and 
the bridge itself as a counterweight. 9 

The Bailey was especially valuable in 
Sicily because of the terrain. Along the 
coast from Palermo to Messina ran a 
narrow littoral flanked by the sea on 
one side and by steep, rocky mountains 
on the other. Here and there, where 
the mountains crowded all the way to 
the sea, Highway 113 was no more than 
a winding, shoulderless road chipped 
into headlands. For the most part ve- 
hicles — and sometimes even foot 
troops — were roadbound. The Ger- 
mans had demolished bridges and cul- 
verts across the numerous ravines. To 
the south and inland, Highway 120 ran 
through rugged mountain ranges nearly 
due east from Petralia through Nicosia, 
Troina, and Randazzo to the east coast. 
Since maneuvering off this road was 
difficult at best, blown bridges could 
stop forward movement. After II Corps 
engineers established their dump in 
Nicosia, Baileys accounted for over 90 



percent of the 298 tons of fortifications 
material, bridging, and road mainte- 
nance supplies the dump issued dur- 
ing the campaign. 10 

On 29 July II Corps engineers estab- 
lished a bridge dump at Nicosia and 
organized a provisional Bailey bridge 
train. The 19th Engineer Combat Regi- 
ment outfitted one of its platoons with 
nine trucks and seven four-wheeled 
German trailers. Each of the cargo 
trucks carried all the components for a 
ten-foot, double-single bay of Bailey 
bridging. The bridge train carried 100 
feet of double-single Bailey plus mate- 
rial for a seventy-foot launching nose, 
and the bridge unit had enough extra 
parts for two eighty-foot Class 40 
bridges. 11 

Corps and Army Support of 
Combat Engineers 

At the time II Corps began slicing 
across Sicily to the north coast on 17 
July, German forces were falling back 
to stronger defensive positions, using a 
covering screen of mines, booby traps, 
and demolitions to delay pursuit. Ex- 
cept for brief stands at Caltanissetta and 
Enna to gain time to consolidate new 
defenses to the east, the enemy aban- 
doned western Sicily. But by 23 July, 
when the 45th Division reached the 



9 Coll, Keith, and Rosenth al, The Corps of Engineers: 
Troops and Equipment, p. 5 1 . 



10 II Corps Engr Rpt, 10 Jul- 18 Aug 43. 

1 ' Davidson, Preliminary Rpt of Seventh Army Engr 
t>n the Sicilian Opn, 23 Aug 43; II Corps Engr Rpt, 
18 Aug 43, ans. 5 and 7; Ltr, Elliott to AFHQ, 21 Sep 
43, sub: Administrative Lessons Learned from Opns 
in Sicily from the Engr Viewpoint; Hist 19th Engr C 
Gp, Oct42-Jan 44. (The 19th Engineer Combat Regi- 
ment was broken up on 1 March 1945; Headquarters 
and Headquarters Company became Headquarters 
and Headquarters Company, 19th Engineer Combat 
Group; the 1st Battalion became the 401st Engineer 
Combat Battalion; the 2d Battalion became the 402d 
Engineer Combat Battalion.) 



140 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



north coast, evidence was mounting 
that the enemy would soon make a 
stand. The 1st Division, on the right 
and inland, ran into sharp fighting and 
increasing numbers of mines and demo- 
litions near Alimena, northwest of Enna. 
To the east the British Eighth Army 
stalled before powerful German de- 
fenses sou th and southwest of Mt. Etna. 
{Map 6) 

Up to this point the work load for 
divisional engineer battalions had not 
been heavy. Their main tasks during 
the establishment of the beachhead had 
been to help build exit roads and to 
help the infantry take and destroy pill- 
boxes. There had been mines to search 
out and a few roadblocks to clear, but 
for the most part divisional engineer 
formations had organized and occupied 
defensive positions alongside the infan- 
try units to which they were attached. 
During the subsequent advances across 
Sicily, divisional engineers spent most 
of their time probing for mines and 
bypassing blown bridges by cutting 
roads down banks and across dry stream- 
beds. 

The 120th Engineer Combat Battal- 
ion opened the way for the 45th Divi- 
sion along Highway 113, the 1st Engi- 
neer Combat Battalion for the 1st Divi- 
sion along Highway 120, where mines 
and demolitions were somewhat denser. 
By the end of July the 1st Engineer 
Battalion had repaired or bypassed 
twenty-three bridges, nineteen large 
craters, and several bomb or shell holes. 
They also had cleared away wrecked 
vehicles, rubble, and roadblocks and 
had swept the route for mines. 12 

Backing up the divisional engineers 



,s! Hist 120th Engr C Bn, May 44; Hist 1st Engr C 
Bn, Sicilian Campaign, 10 Jul-Dec 43. 



in II Corps was the 39th Engineer Com- 
bat Regiment, one battalion behind the 
120th and another behind the 1st. Corps 
engineers in close support improved 
bypasses and, where bypasses were im- 
practical, erected Bailey bridges. They 
also cleared more mines, reduced 
grades, and eliminated traffic bottle- 
necks. A battalion of the 19th Engineers 
joined II Corps to handle work the 39th 
Engineers could not do because much 
of the regiment's equipment and many 
of its vehicles had not yet arrived. This 
battalion had been working on Comiso 
Airfield and had with it several road 
graders, bulldozers, six-ton trucks, and 
sixteen-ton trailers. 13 

Behind II Corps, the 20th Engineer 
Combat Regiment on Highway 113 and 
the 343d Engineer General Service 
Regiment on Highway 120 shared road 
maintenance responsibility within the 
army area. Most main roads were in 
excellent condition: surfaced with black 
top or water-bound macadam, wide 
enough for two-way traffic, and moder- 
ately graded and curved. Towns, with 
their sharp turns and narrow streets, 
were the- principal bottlenecks. Second- 
class roads were usually in fair condi- 
tion but were narrow with sharp curves 
and steep grades; Seventh Army made 
good use of them by making them one- 
way and by controlling traffic. Dry 
weather made the engineers' job easier. 
Road repair machinery such as rollers 
and portable rock crushers were cap- 
tured in many localities, while stock- 
piles of crushed stone and asphalt 
enough for initial repairs were found 
along all main roads. 

By the time army engineers took over 

13 II Corps Engr Rpt, Sicilian Campaign; Hists, 39th 
Engr C Rgt, 10 Jul-I8 Aug 43, and 19th Engr C Gp, 
Oct 42- (an 44. 



SICILY: THE DRIVE TO MESSINA 



141 



main supply routes from corps engi- 
neers, they generally found the roads 
in excellent condition. After removing 
roadblocks, widening bottlenecks, and 
improving some bypasses, they built 
culverts, paved the slopes of fills, and 
built wooden trestle bridges. The 20th 
Engineers improved eighteen bypasses 
on Highway 113 between Palermo and 
Cape Orlando, and the 343d Engineers 
did similar work on twenty-one bypasses 
on roads from Cape Orlando to Mes- 
sina and Randazzo. The two regiments 
also cleared minefields and rebuilt six 
railroad bridges. 14 

Between Highways 113 and 120 lay 
the rugged Madonie-Nebrodi ranges, 
with peaks over 6,000 feet high. Few 
roads crossed these mountains, and lat- 
eral roads connecting 113 with 120 
were some fifteen miles apart. At the 
end of July traffic between the 1st and 
45th Divisions had to make a long trip 
around to the rear. Engineers of the 
45th Division began reopening High- 
way 117, running south out of Santo 
Stefano. As soon as Santo Stefano fell 
into American hands, Company B, 120th 
Engineer Battalion, went to work at a 
demolished bridge two miles north of 
Mistretta. Engineers grading a bypass 
there lost two bulldozers to enemy mines, 
although the site had been checked. 
Afterward, engineers spent more time 
on mine clearance work and paid par- 
ticular attention to areas around demo- 
litions, for the Germans, impressed by 
the speed with which American bull- 
dozers cut bypasses, were bent on mak- 
ing the most likely bypass routes the 
deadliest ones. 15 



14 Rpt of Seventh Army Engr Sicily. 

15 Hist 120th Engr C Bn in Sicilian Campaign,-May 
44. 



After II Corps turned east, enemy 
mining became more plentiful and more 
deliberate. The Germans planted mines 
in potholes and covered them with hot 
asphalt to resemble patches. They also 
booby-trapped antitank mines, as many 
as 90 percent of them in places. Before 
roads and trails could be opened, divi- 
sional engineers had to sweep traffic 
lanes and shoulders thoroughly. For 
this job they needed many more SCR— 
625 mine detectors than the fifteen allo- 
cated to each of the engineer combat 
regiments, divisional engineers, sepa- 
rate combat battalions, and armored 
engineer battalions. The 19th Engi- 
neers carried forty-two detectors, and 
after the campaign both Seventh Army 
and AFHQ recommended that the num- 
ber provided as organic equipment for 
infantry and armored divisional engi- 
neer battalions be raised to forty-two 
and fifty-four, respectively. 16 

SCR— 625s proved as valuable in Sic- 
ily as in Tunisia — and less troublesome. 
Since rain fell only once in the II Corps 
area, the only trouble with moisture 
shorting out the detectors came from 
sea spray during the initial landings. 
The detectors were fragile, however, 
and seldom were more than 75 percent 
working. Sweeping with the SCR— 625 
was slow and tedious, but neither so 
slow nor so tedious as probing. Engi- 
neers relied heavily on the SCR— 625s, 
but doubt was growing as to how long 
they could continue to do so. In Sicily 
the Germans used two types of mines 
that SCR— 625s could not detect under 
more than an inch of soil. One was a 



l0 Opns Rpt and S-2 Jnl, 120th Engr C Bn, 10 
Jul-31 Oct 43, in Hist 120th EngrCBn,31 May-Nov 
43; Ltr, Engr Sect, AFHQ, to CofEngrs, 28 Nov 43, 
sub: Changes in T/E, 370.212 Sicily, Rpts on Opns, 
Aug 43 to Oct 43, AFHQ files. 




MAP 6 



144 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



German wooden box mine that had a 
metal detonator, the other an impro- 
vised mine made of plastic explosive 
wrapped in paper or cloth and equipped 
with a bakelite detonator. Around Ran- 
dazzo, where enemy mines were found 
in great numbers, the high metallic con- 
tent of the soil made SCR— 625s useless. 
The less sensitive British mine detector 
was of some use, but the only sure way 
to find mines there was by probing for 
them with a bayonet. 17 

Before the invasion the 17th Armored 
Engineer Battalion obtained four Scor- 
pion mine exploders mounted on M— 4 
tanks for clearing lanes through mine- 
fields protected by enemy fire. They 
landed at Licata on 14 July. Because no 
trailers or prime movers were available 
for transporting the often trouble-prone 
tanks, they had to be walked into posi- 
tion over mountainous roads, and after 
twenty miles their bogeys wore out. 
They were never used in the heavily 
mined fields along the north coast be- 
tween Cape Orlando and Milazzo on 
Highway 113 toward the close of the 
campaign because when they finally 
arrived after their long road march, all 
needed major repairs. 8 

The arrival in early August of the 
39th Engineers' vehicles and heavy 
equipment, as well as missing elements 
of the 19th Engineers, made it possible 
for a full engineer combat regiment to 



17 II Corps Engr Rpt, 10 Jul- 18 Aug 43; Seventh 
Army Rpt Sicily, pp. 1-3 and C-42; Hist 1st Engr C 
Bn, Sicilian Campaign. (This unit reported that the 
American detector couid, with accurate tuning, locate 
the new German wooden box mines.) Hist 19th Engr 
C Rgt, 20 Oct 42-1 Oct 43; Comments collected by 
Capt Alden Colvocoresses, 24 Aug 43, in Husky — Joss 
Task Force (8-12 Jul) — Rpt of Observations. 

18 Rpt of Seventh Army Engr Sicily; Opns of CCA, 
2d Armd Div, 21 Apr- 25 Jul 43; Hist 17th Armd 
Engr Bn. 



support each attacking division. The II 
Corps engineers also received sixteen 
gready needed D— 7 and D— 8 heavy 
bulldozers from southern beaches; the 
19th Engineer Combat Regiment got 
five to go with its three organic D— 7s, 
and two divisional engineer combat bat- 
talions got two each. 

Only three sixteen-ton trailers were 
available to move heavy bulldozers, and 
they were too light, breaking down so 
often that most of the time bulldozers 
had to be driven from one construc- 
tion site to another. The larger bulldoz- 
ers proved invaluable, however, for the 
three R— 4s allotted divisional engineers 
were too light for many jobs. For the 
engineers' requirements on Sicily, wrote 
one engineer battalion commander, his 
unit needed six R— 4s, three D— 7s, a 
prime mover, and a twenty-ton trailer. 
After the campaign Seventh Army rec- 
ommended that divisional engineer bat- 
talions be issued one D— 7 as organiza- 
tional equipment and engineer combat 
regiments three. D— 7s no longer ex- 
ceeded the "division load" limitation, 
but production was a problem. In July 
1943 engineer regiments appeared to 
be at least nine to twelve months away 
from getting more heavy bulldozers. 

Maps and Camouflage 
The map used most in Sicily was a 



19 Rpt of Seventh Army Engr Sicily; II Corps Engr 
Rpt, 10 Jul- 18 Aug 43; Ltr, Lt Col L. L. Bingham, 
CO, 10th Engr C Bn, to CG, 3d Div, 29 Jul 43, sub: 
Engr Recommendations and Lessons Learned from 
Sicilian Campaign, 10th Engr C Bn files; Hist 19th 
Engr C Gp; Davidson, Preliminary Rpt of Seventh 
Army Engr on the Sicilian Opn, 23 Aug 43, and in- 
dorsements by HQ, 15th Army Gp, 6 Sep 43, and 
AFHQ, 2 Oct 43; Incl to Ltr, Col Robert H. Burrag, 
Actg Chf Opns and Trng Br, Troops Div, OCE, WD, 
to Col Donald P. Adams, HQ, EBS, 9 Jul 43; Hist 10th 
Engr C Bn in Sicilian Opn, 31 Jul- 18 Aug 43. 



SICILY: THE DRIVE TO MESSINA 



145 



multicolored one in the 1 : 100,000 series 
which in twenty-six sheets offered com- 
plete coverage of the island. Such cov- 
erage was not available in the tactical 
1:50,000 and 1:25,000 series, but the 
1 :50,000 maps were accurate, and artil- 
lery used them with good results when 
no 1 :25,000 sheets were to be had. The 
1: 10,000 beach mosaic was of some use 
during the initial landings, but its qual- 
ity was poor and its coverage inade- 
quate. Photomaps on a scale of 1 :25,000, 
the product of air sorties before and 
during the campaign, were of little use 
because many areas were blank and 
detail and contrast were frequently 
lacking. 

More overprints were needed dur- 
ing the latter stages of the campaign 
when enemy resistance stiffened. Two 
photo interpreters from the 62d Engi- 
neer Topographic Company came to 
Ponte Olivo Airfield to copy informa- 
tion on enemy defenses in the north- 
eastern areas from aerial photographs. 
They were able to spot routes of ad- 
vance, pick bypass routes, evaluate en- 
emy demolitions, and even estimate 
lengths of bridging that would be needed 
at certain places. The aerial informa- 
tion was printed on base maps prepared 
in advance, and copies went to every 
interested division as well as to army 
headquarters, corps headquarters, corps 
artillery, and the Naval Operations 
Board. The value of this work for front- 
line units in Sicily was limited, however, 
because they moved so rapidly that 
ground reconnaissance often was possi- 
ble before the photo-interpreters' re- 
ports reached them. 20 



™ II Corps Engr Rpt, 10 Jul- 18 Aug 43, an. 3, Map 
Supply and Distribution; HQ, Force 141, Planning 
Instr 15, Maps and Charts. 



The only camouflage units in the 
Sicilian campaign were Company B, 
601st Engineer Camouflage Battalion, 
and a platoon of the 904th Engineer 
Air Force Headquarters Company. 
Company B of the 601st reached Sicily 
late in July and was attached by pla- 
toons to the assault divisions. Its only 
assignments during the campaign in- 
volved camouflaging the Seventh Army 
command post and building a dummy 
railhead. However, the campaign ended 
before the railhead task could be fin- 
ished. The 904th Company's platoon 
for a time painted deceptive patterns 
on planes and trucks but later relied on 
dispersal to reduce losses at airfields. 

Apart from the work of these two 
units the engineers' part in camouflage 
was chiefly supplying materials and giv- 
ing instruction in their use. Before 
HUSKY got under way, engineers fur- 
nished reversible nets for each TBA 
vehicle scheduled to go to Sicily and 
additional oversize nets to build up a 
reserve of 250 on each of the three 
beachheads. One side of each net was 
sand-colored to blend with barren land- 
scape; the other side was green-toned 
for verdant areas. The nets were put to 
good use, notably in concealing artil- 
lery from Luftwaffe attacks during the 
battle for Troina. 21 

Highway 120: The Road to Randazzo 

Late in July the 39th Infantry, 9th 
Division, which was to replace the 1st 
Infantry Division along Highway 120, 
arrived at Nicosia. Maj. Gen. Terry de 
la Mesa Allen, commanding the 1st 



21 Hist 601st Engr Camouflage Bn, 1943; Hist, The 
Aviation Engineers in the MTO, Hist Sect, AAF Engr 
Cmd, MTO (P), 12 Jun 46, p. 183, Maxwell AFB. 



146 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



Division, expected relief with the fall 
of Troina, the next main objective. 
Leading the advance, the 39th Infan- 
try took Cerami on 31 July, but the fol- 
lowing day heavy German fire stopped 
the regiment about four miles short of 
Troina. 

Though the Germans were with- 
drawing, they had determined to delay 
pursuit at Troina, which was ideal for 
their purpose. The highest town in 
Sicily, Troina perched atop a 3,600-foot 
mountain dominating the countryside, 
a natural strongpoint and "a demoli- 
tion engineer's dream" because ap- 
proaches could be blocked by blown 
bridges and mines. 22 On 2 August Gen- 
eral Allen committed his 26th Infantry, 
but its attack proved fruitless. Another 
push by the reinforced 16th Infantry, 
1st Division, also made little progress. 

On 4 August, the fifth day of the 
battle for Troina, the 9th Division's 60th 
Infantry arrived on the scene and began 
deploying to outflank German defenses 
well north of Troina. Farther south, the 
39th Infantry, 9th Division, and the 
26th Infantry, 1st Division, were to con- 
tinue efforts to encircle Troina from 
the northwest and north; the 16th In- 
fantry, 1st Division, was to drive east- 
ward on the town across virtually track- 
less hills; the 1 8th Infantry, 1st Division, 
was to outflank it on the south. Com- 
pany A, 1st Engineer Combat Battalion, 
had the mission of bulldozing a road 
along the 16th Infantry's axis of advance, 
while the 9th Division's 15th Engineer 
Combat Battalion had a similar mission 
in support of the 60th Infantry. 

Maj. Gen. Man ton S. Eddy, com- 
manding the 9th Division, intended that 



28 Garland and Smyth, Sicily and the Surrender of Italy, 
p. 329. 



the 60th Infantry push generally east 
from Capizzi across Monte Pelato and 
Camolato and then, striking from the 
north, drive toward Cesaro, on High- 
way 120 east of Troina, in an attempt 
to cut off German forces withdrawing 
from the Troina sector. The attack 
began on the morning of 5 August, with 
three light R— 4 angledozers of the 15th 
Engineer Battalion soon struggling to 
build a new road along the infantry's 
axis of advance. In the afternoon two 
D— 7 heavy bulldozers arrived from 
corps; one broke down almost immedi- 
ately, but the other did yeoman work. 

During the night of 5— 6 August the 
Germans abandoned Troina and fell 
back behind a cover of mines and de- 
molitions. The next day the 9th Divi- 
sion replaced the 1st along Highway 
120, and the 15th Engineer Combat 
Battalion took over from the 1st Engi- 
neer Combat Battalion. Some of the 
heaviest German mining and demoli- 
tions were along Highway 120 between 
Troina and Randazzo, the next main 
objective. Nowhere during the cam- 
paign was mine clearance and bypass 
construction more important, because 
Randazzo lay high on the slopes of Mt. 
Etna. Just as important was building 
new roads through the mountains. 23 

On 8 August Company B, 15th Engi- 
neer Battalion, withdrew from the new 
road to Mt. Camolato to support the 
47th Infantry on Highway 120 east of 
Troina. By this time the new road was 
open to Colle Basso, perhaps two-thirds 
of the way to Mt. Camolato, but the 



23 This account is drawn from: Hists of the 15th 
Engr C Bn, Sicilian Campaign, 23 Aug 43, and the 1st 
Engr C Bn, Sicilian Campaign, 10 Jul— Dec 43; Sev- 
enth Army Rpt Sicily, pp. 6-17; ETOUSA Engr 
Observers Rpt 3, 18 Feb 44, 319.1, binder 1, 1944, 
AFHQ files. 



SICILY: THE DRIVE TO MESSINA 



147 



15th faced difficult problems. Company 
A's R— 4 broke down, and mist and rain 
began to hinder the work. Company C 
pushed the road to completion at 1700 
on 9 August. Earlier that day Company 
A moved off to repair the Mt. Camo- 
lato— Cesaro road and to build a north- 
south bypass around Cesaro, using a 
D— 8 bulldozer that had just arrived 
from corps. 

After joining the 47th Infantry on 8 
August, Company B cleared mines to 
within a mile of Cesaro, where enemy 
shell fire halted the work. Next morn- 
ing the company used a repaired D— 7 
to build a four-mile-long east-west by- 
pass, which for 1 1/2 miles followed the 
Troina River bed and detoured around 
both Cesaro and three demolished brid- 
ges east of Troina. Company C ulti- 
mately extended to forty miles the 60th 
Infantry's road through the mountains 
north of Troina and Cesaro. 

Slowed by mines, the 9th Division did 
not enter Randazzo until the morning 
of 13 August; shortly thereafter the 
British 78th Division entered from the 
south. The 1st Infantry Division came 
back into the line at Randazzo, and the 
9th Division swung north and north- 
east toward the north coast. In anticipa- 
tion of this shift, engineers had already 
scouted a narrow road that ran north 
from Highway 120 at a point a few 
miles west of Randazzo, and Company 
B, 15 th Engineer Battalion, began open- 
ing the road on 1 3 August. Two demol- 
ished bridges and two road craters 
caused little trouble, but a quarter mile 
of abatis was heavily strewn with S-mines 
and Teller mines, one of which claimed 
a D— 8 bulldozer. Nevertheless, Com- 
pany B opened the road to one-way 
traffic shortly after noon. Elements of 
the battalion then moved to Floresta, 



and the next day Company A opened a 
one-way road as far as Montalbano. At 
this point all 9th Division engineer work 
halted — with the campaign almost over, 
the 9th Division came out of the line. 

The 15th Engineer Battalion had 
been in action fifteen days. During that 
time the battalion built 45 miles of new 
supply roads through mountains, re- 
paired 14 miles of existing roads, by- 
passed 15 demolished bridges, filled 4 
major craters, cleared a quarter mile of 
abatis, and searched 30 miles of road 
for mines. The unit's water points sup- 
plied over 1,500,000 gallons of puri- 
fied water. There had been twelve cas- 
ualties, ten (including two deaths) caused 
by two S-mines near Cesaro on 1 1 
August. 

On 13 August the 1st Engineer Com- 
bat Battalion came back into action with 
the rest of the 1st Division. Company 
B and a platoon of Company A worked 
throughout the night improving the 
road through and east of Randazzo for 
the 18th Infantry to use the next morn- 
ing. The engineers found nine bridges 
destroyed within a few miles and worked 
continuously until 15 August bypass- 
ing them. At one site a forty-foot bank 
rose on the near side — a perfect spot 
for Bailey bridging, but none was avail- 
able. During its thirty-one days in the 
line, the 1st Engineer Combat Battal- 
ion bypassed thirty-nine bridges, filled 
twenty-eight road craters, and searched 
out hundreds of mines. The battalion 
suffered 30 casualties: 4 killed, 3 missing, 
and 23 wounded. 

Highway 113: The Road to Messina 

After fighting its way into the north 
coastal town of Santo Stefano on 31 
July, the 45th Division went into reserve 



148 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



and the 3d Infantry Division took over 
on Highway 113. As the 3d Division 
advanced east along the north coast, it 
was confined to a single road even more 
than was the 9th Division along High- 
way 120. On the left was the sea, on the 
right mountainous terrain fit only for 
mules and men on foot. Maj. Gen. 
Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., commanding 
the division, sent one element forward 
astride Highway 113 to clear spurs 
overlooking the road and to protect the 
engineers who were making a path 
through demolitions and minefields so 
that artillery and vehicles could move 
forward. He sent other elements with 
pack animals (he was to use more than 
400 mules and 100 horses) over moun- 
tain trails on the right and inland to 
strike the enemy's flank and rear. 24 

An advantage Highway 113 had over 
Highway 120 was the possibility of land- 
ing men and supplies by sea. Supplies 
came ashore from LSTs at Torremuzza 
beach near Santo Stefano at an unload- 
ing point the 2d Battalion, 540th Engi- 
neer Combat Regiment, opened on 3 
August. This same battalion also fur- 
nished a platoon and a D— 7 to clear 
mines and wire from a beach at Sant' 
Agata when Truscott attempted a small 
amphibious operation to outflank the 
San Fratello position, the first major 
German strongpoint east of Santo 
Stefano. 25 

At Monte San Fratello, a 2,200-foot 
peak about fifteen miles east of Santo 
Stefano, the 3d Division was stopped 
from 3 to 8 August, as effectively as the 
1st Division had been at Troina and 
for the same reason — the Germans were 



M Lt. Gen. L. K. Truscolt, Jr., Command Missions 
(New York: Dutton, 1954), pp. 230-31. 

25 HQ, Seventh Army, Adm Sitreps, Jul and Aug 
43, app. D; Interv, Capt Napp, S-3, 540th Engr C 
Rgt; Hist 540th Engr C Rgt, 1942-45. 



buying time for their withdrawal. When 
heavy fire and dense minefields halted 
the 15th Infantry, two battalions of the 
30th and the entire 7th had to be com- 
mitted before any progress could be 
made, and that progress was made 
partly because the Germans were thin- 
ning out their defenses. A battalion 
leapfrogged behind the San Fratello 
position at Sant' Agata in an amphibious 
landing before dawn on 8 August, the 
battalion landing team including a pla- 
toon of the 3d Division's 10th Engineer 
Combat Battalion and a platoon of the 
540th Engineer Combat Regiment. The 
operation failed to cut off the Germans 
but did hasten their withdrawal. 

Resuming the advance, which heavy 
mining and considerable demolition 
work slowed, the 3d Division encoun- 
tered a second strong line at Naso ridge 
near Cape Orlando on 11 August. A 
second end run, attempted early on the 
twelfth near Brolo, twelve miles behind 
the enemy's lines, almost proved disas- 
trous. The enemy boxed in the landing 
force and inflicted heavy casualties 
before relief arrived by land. Two engi- 
neers of the 10th Engineer Combat Bat- 
talion were killed and two were 
wounded; two engineers of the 540th 
platoon were killed and three were 
wounded. 26 

Five or six miles beyond Brolo along 
the coastal highway, the 30th Infantry, 
leading, halted on 12 August before the 
most formidable roadblock German 
demolition engineers had yet put up. 
Overcoming it was to be "a landmark 
of American engineer support in 
Sicily." 27 

2e Hist 10th Engr C Bn in Sicilian Opn, 26 Aug 43; 
Rpt of Seventh Army Engr Sicily; Bradley, A Soldier's 
Story, pp. 158-59; Hist 540th Engr C Rgt, 1942-45. 

Garland and Smyth, Sicily and the Surrender of Italy, 
p. 406. 



SICILY: THE DRIVE TO MESSINA 



149 



About fifty feet beyond a tunnel at 
Cape Calava the Germans had blown 
out 150 feet of the road that ran along a 
shelf carved out of a sheer rock cliff 
rising abruptly from the sea. Infantry- 
men could pick their way one by one 
across the steep rock face, and guns 
and supplies could be ferried by sea. 
But the division's supply trucks and 
heavy guns had to use the road, for 
landing craft were in short supply. 
Grading could close two-thirds of the 
gap, but any fill dumped into the cen- 
ter would roll down to the sea, 200 feet 
below. This section had to be bridged, 
but no Bailey bridging was available. 
With captured timbers, the 10th Engi- 
neer Combat Battalion "hung a bridge 
in the sky" — and did it in twenty-four 
hours. 28 

Shortly after noon on 13 August, sev- 
eral engineer officers halted their jeep 
at a roadblock on Highway 113 four 
miles west of Cape Calava and hiked to 
the break in the road. They computed 
what would be needed to do the job, 
ordered up the necessary men and' 
equipment, and estimated they could 
bridge the gap by noon the next day. 
Within an hour or two, men from Com- 
pany A, 10th Engineer Battalion, were 
on hand, breaking rock with jackham- 
mers. Trucks and trailers loaded with 
heavy timber beams and flanks began 
to move forward. In the meantime a 
bulldozer was needed on other demoli- 
tions farther east. To get one forward, 
engineers built a raft on two fishing 
smacks, loaded a bulldozer aboard, and 
used an amphibious jeep to tow the 



28 This account of the Cape Calava bridge is drawn 
from Ernie Pyle, Brave Men (New York: Henry Holt, 
1944), pp. 65-71, and Hist 10th Engr C Bn in Sicil- 
ian Opn, 26 Aug 43. 



makeshift ferry five miles around Cape 
Calava. 29 

At the constricted bridge site, Com- 
pany A could put only one platoon at a 
time on the job. All night the unit 
labored to meet the deadline. At dawn 
the gaping hole remained, but the foun- 
dations for a bridge had been laid. 
Engineers swung a heavy timber into 
the gap and set it upright on a seat cut 
into the cliff. They laid another beam 
from the top of this upright to another 
seat chipped out of the rock and pinned 
the two timbers together to form a bent. 
Then they looped a steel cable around 
the upright and anchored it to pins set 
in the cliff. The cable prevented the 
bent from sliding downhill when heavy, 
spliced-timber girders were worked into 
place. Twenty-man teams picked up the 
girders one by one and slid them into 
position. 

A rickety bridge began to take shape. 
As the last floor plank was spiked down 
and the final touches added to the 
approaches, General Truscott climbed 
aboard his jeep. Promptly at noon on 
14 August men of Company A stepped 
back and watched the division com- 
mander test the newly completed span. 
Other light vehicles loaded with ammu- 
nition and weapons for frontline troops 
were waiting to follow. After they cross- 
ed, the bridge was closed so that engi- 
neers could strengthen it to take 2 1/2- 
ton trucks. At 1 700 the bridge was re- 
opened and cargo trucks — even a bull- 
dozer — began to cross. 

Beyond Cape Calava the 3d Division's 
7th Regimental Combat Team advanced 
so rapidly that an amphibious landing 
by the 157th Regimental Combat Team, 

29 Merrill Mueller, NBC War Correspondent Over- 
seas, Letter to the Editor, Look Magazine, March 20, 
1944. 



150 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 




Construction Begins at Cape Calava to close gap blown by retreating Germans. 



45th Division, during the night of 15 — 16 
August at Bivio Salica fell miles short 
of the advance infantry elements. Dark- 
ness found the 7th Regimental Combat 
Team pushing strong patrols into Mes- 
sina. By dawn, organized resistance in 
Sicily had ended and American artil- 
lery was dueling with enemy guns across 
the Strait of Messina. 

A measure of the German demoli- 
tions in the mountains rising from the 
sea was the time it took Truscott's forces 
to traverse the coastal road. The 3d 
Division took sixteen laborious days to 
reach Messina; on the morning of 20 
August General Truscott made the 
return journey from Messina to Palermo 
in just three hours. 30 



Truscott, Command Missions, p. 244. 



In the drive along the coast the 10th 
Engineer Combat Battalion took casual- 
ties of four men killed and twenty-three 
wounded; most of the casualties were 
from mines. Lt. Col. Leonard L. Bing- 
ham, commanding the battalion, thought 
the unit had been used improperly in 
the later stages of the campaign. At the 
outset, on 1 August, its three line com- 
panies were strung out along Highway 
113, all working under division engi- 
neer control. Two companies leapfrog- 
ged each other from demolition site to 
demolition site, while the third com- 
pany provided mine removal parties for 
divisional units. Headquarters, Head- 
quarters and Service Company, main- 
tained the division, engineer supply 
dump, established water points, ser- 
viced engineer vehicles, and operated 



SICILY: THE DRIVE TO MESSINA 



151 




General Truscott Tests the Temporary Span at Cape Calava 



established headquarters and main sup- 
ply dumps when requests for work 
began to pour in to Col. Garrison H. 
Davidson, the army engineer. No for- 
mal construction program was estab- 
lished, and army engineer troops han- 
dled mine sweeping, road clearing, and 
construction requests as they came in. 
Space was urgendy needed for offices, 
billets, storehouses, laundries, bakeries, 
and maintenance shops, while hospi- 
tals set up in unoccupied buildings had 
to have window screens and more water 
and sewage facilities. The municipal 
water and sewage systems needed re- 
pairs, and generating plants at Palermo 
and Porto Empedocle had been bombed 
out of operation. 

Several engineer units had a part in 
rehabilitating Palermo. The 20th Engi- 



the battalion aid station. But this ar- 
rangement did not last, and soon many 
units of the 10th Engineer Battalion — 
frequently whole companies — were at- 
tached to infantry units. This proce- 
dure had officers who were not engi- 
neers directing the platoons and com- 
panies and cost the engineers their 
cohesiveness within the division. 31 

Palermo 

After the capture of Palermo on 22 
July, Seventh Army had no sooner 



31 Hist 10th Engr C Bn in Sicilian Opn, 26 Aug 43; 
Seventh Army Rpt Sicily, pp. 6-20 and E-2; Ltr, 
Bingham to CG, 3d Div, 29 Jul 43, sub: Engr Recom- 
mendations and Lessons Learned from Sicilian Cam- 
paign. 



152 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



neer Combat Regiment began work 
there on 23 July but left a week later to 
extend the railroad line to Santo Stefano. 
On this job the regiment rebuilt four 
bridges and repaired one tunnel and a 
considerable amount of track. For one 
bridge the 20th Engineers used prefab- 
ricated trestling found in the Palermo 
shipyards; for another, Bailey highway 
bridging was used, with planking be- 
tween the rails so trucks as well as trains 
could use the bridge, and for others, 
captured timbers were used. On 9 
August the railroad was open to a for- 
ward railhead at the junction of High- 
ways 117 and 120 near Santo Stefano. 
In the first five miles beyond this rail- 
head were four demolished bridges; 
therefore, the engineers made no at- 
tempt to extend rail service east of 
Santo Stefano. 32 

The 540th Engineer Combat Regi- 
ment (less one battalion) worked briefly 
at Palermo, then moved on to operate 
beaches at Termini Imerese. The 343d 
Engineer General Service Regiment, 
whose responsibility for Palermo was 
also brief, replaced the 540th on 30 
July. The 1051st Engineer Port Con- 
struction and Repair Group, organized 
especially for such work, took over the 
assignment on 1 1 August. The group's 
equipment did not arrive for some time, 
and in the interim it had to use what- 
ever captured equipment it could find. 



32 Seventh Army Rpt Sicily, p. E- 15; 1st ESB Rpt 
of Action Against the Enemy, 10-13 Jul 43; Hist 
20th Engr C Bn, 17 May- 17 Jun 45. 



Italian POWs did most of the work 
under the 1051st's supervision. 33 

The 1090th Engineer Utilities Com- 
pany, which arrived in Palermo on 7 
August, handled most of the repairs 
on utilities. The principal project was 
steam power plants. The unit employed 
an average of 120 POWs and 100 civil- 
ians and used borrowed tools and cap- 
tured equipment, including two 5,000- 
kilowatt turbines. A new type of engi- 
neer unit, the 1090th had been hastily 
activated for HUSKY. The company was 
in Sicily a month before its organiza- 
tional equipment arrived, and one-third 
of its men never caught up with the 
parent unit there. 34 

After its surrender, Sicily became 
part of the British line of communica- 
tions in the Mediterranean. The U.S. 
6625th Base Area Group (Provisional) 
handled American interests until Sev- 
enth Army units could be shipped out 
and American installations closed. On 
1 September 1943 the 6625th Base 
Area Group was redesignated Island 
Base Section (IBS). Operating directly 
under NATOUSA, IBS supervised the 
steadily diminishing American activities 
on the island. The principal engineer 
task after the campaign ended was 
replacing bypasses with bridges and cul- 
verts in preparation for the fall rains. 35 



33 HQ, Seventh Army, Adm Sitreps 22, 1 Aug 43; 
23, 3 Aug 43; and 25, 5 Aug 43; Hist 343d Engr GS 
Rgt, 1942-45; lnterv, Col Dickerson, XO, 1051st Engr 
PC&R Gp, and Capt Napp, S-3, 540th Engr Shore 
Rgt, Husky— Joss Task Force (8- 12 Jul) —Rpt of 
Observations. 

34 Hist 1090th Engr Utilities Co, 7 Aug-6 Oct 43. 

35 History of Island Base Section, in CMH. 



CHAPTER VIII 



From Salerno to 
the Volturno 



At the TRIDENT Conference in Wash- 
ington in May 1943, the British and 
Americans agreed that after Sicily they 
should undertake further operations in 
the Mediterranean "calculated to elimi- 
nate Italy from the war and to contain 
maximum German forces." 1 That state- 
ment glossed over disagreements be- 
tween British and Americans about the 
relative emphasis to be given the Medi- 
terranean, the British insisting that 
resources should be concentrated there 
in 1943 while the Americans wanted to 
prepare for a cross-Channel attack in 
1944. As the Allies swept through Sicily, 
however, growing signs of Italian col- 
lapse produced agreement on an imme- 
diate invasion of Italy to follow up on 
the victory in Sicily. On 16 August Gen- 
eral Eisenhower decided to move Brit- 
ish Eighth Army forces across the Strait 
of Messina at the earliest opportunity 
and to launch Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark's 
Fifth Army (with a British corps at- 
tached) on a major invasion of the Ital- 
ian mainland on 9 September. 

Engineer preparation for the inva- 
sion began with the establishment of 
Fifth Army headquarters on 5 January 



1 CCS 242/6, 25 May 43, sub: Final Rpt to President 
and Prime Minister. 



1943 at Oujda, French Morocco. The 
army engineer, Col. Frank O. Bowman, 
had organized his section on paper a 
month earlier, but his staff, drawn 
largely from the American II Corps 
engineers, was hardly versed in engi- 
neer planning at the army level. Bow- 
man provided what direction he could 
from his experience as the AFHQ engi- 
neer in England and in North Africa, 
but his temporary reassignment from 
April to August 1943 as SOS, NATO* 
USA, engineer left the section to Col. 
Mark M. Boatner, Jr., who presided 
over the interim work on other pro- 
posed invasions in the Mediterranean. 

Fifth Army headquarters considered 
a number of proposals, and the engi- 
neers contributed map plans, supply 
schemes, and terrain studies to nearly 
all of them. An inherited plan, Opera- 
tion BACKBONE, called for a foray into 
Spanish Morocco should Spain change 
its nominally neutral stance in the war. 
In the summer of 1943 the engineer 
staff entered the planning for BRIM- 
STONE, the invasion and occupation of 
Sardinia. Several plans involved a thrust 
into Italy itself, and many of the accu- 
mulated concepts coalesced into the 
final assault plan. BARRACUDA aimed 
directly at the harbor of Naples, GANG- 



154 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



WAY at the beaches immediately north 
of the city. MUSKET would have brought 
Fifth Army into Taranto and required 
a much longer overland campaign to 
the Italian capital. Operation BAY- 
TOWN was the British move across the 
Strait of Messina to Reggio di Calabria. 
The Combined Chiefs of Staff ruled 
out BRIMSTONE on 20 July, and after 
the twenty-seventh the main features 
of Barracuda and Gangway were 
combined into planning for AVA- 
LANCHE. Through August the Fifth 
Army staff wresded with choosing a tar- 
get for the invasion. General Clark 
favored the Naples operation for the 
leverage it would provide in landing 
slightly farther north and cutting off 
German forces in southern Italy. With 
the cooperation of British engineers 
from 10 Corps, scheduled to make the 
landing as part of Fifth Army, and with 
reliance upon American terrain analy- 
ses and British Inter-Service Informa- 
tion Series (ISIS) reports, Colonel Bow- 
man formulated his own recommen- 
dations, leaving room for the attack 
near either Naples or Salerno, 150 miles 
southwest of Rome on the Italian coast. 
Since Naples lay just outside the ex- 
treme range of Allied fighters operat- 
ing from Sicilian airfields, the beaches 
at Salerno, just within range, became 
the primary choice for the assault. 2 

The Salerno beaches had advantages 
and disa dvantages for the invaders. 
\(Map 7)| Slightly steeper than those in 
the Gulf of Naples, they afforded trans- 
port craft closer access to the shore. 
Sand dunes at Salerno were low and 
narrow and tended to run easily into 
beach-exit routes. The topography be- 



Engmeer History, Mediterranean, pp. 3—4. 



hind the beaches was suited for dis- 
persed supply dumps, and a roadnet 
close to shore could support forward 
troop and supply movement. Though 
there were no clearly organized defen- 
sive positions in the area, the moun- 
tains behind the beaches formed a nat- 
ural amphitheater facing the sea. Ene- 
my observation posts would detect any 
movement below, and artillery fire from 
the high ground could reach the attack- 
ing forces easily. Once ashore, troops 
would find the way to Naples ob- 
structed by the rugged Sorrento ridge, 
which sloped out into the sea on the 
northern arm of the Gulf of Salerno. 
The actual landing zone was split almost 
exactly in two by the mouth of the Sele 
River, which would hinder communica- 
tion between the two halves of the 
beachhead until the engineers could 
bridge the stream. 

Enemy strength in the area was con- 
siderable. Under the command of Tenth 
Army, German forces were withdraw- 
ing from the southern tier of the Ital- 
ian boot throughout the latter part of 
August in accordance with rough plans 
to concentrate a strong defense just 
south of Rome. The movement acceler- 
ated after the British jump into Italy 
early in September, with the XIV Pan- 
zer Corps, composed of the reconstitu- 
ted Hermann Goering Division, the 16th 
Panzer Division, and the 15th Panzer 
Grenadier Division, strung along the Ital- 
ian west coast from Salerno north to 
Gaeta. 

Recognizing that the Salerno beaches 
were suitable for an Allied incursion, 
the 16th Panzer Division's engineers in 
the area emplaced mines and beach 
obstacles along the dunes from Salerno 
to Agropoli, at the southern extent of 
the bay — but not so extensively as might 




have been expected. The Germans, 
regarding the Italian will to fight as neg- 
ligible amid rumors of imminent defec- 
tion, took over the coastal defenses of 
the Salerno area, executing the pro- 
testing commander of an Italian divi- 
sion in the process. They supplemented 
local batteries with their own heavy 
pieces in the mountains behind the 
beaches, especially on the imposing 
3,566-foot Monte Soprana. They also 
emplaced a series of strongpoints in the 



foothills fronting the sea, with a partic- 
ularly heavy concentration back of the 
southern complex of beaches in the 
area eventually chosen for the VI Corps 
attack. Panzer forces were expected to 
support these points with mobile coun- 
terassaults and supplementary fire. An 
Italian minefield offshore completed 
the defenses of the beaches. 3 



3 Martin Blumenson, Salerno to Cassino, United States 
Army in World War II (Washington, 1969), p. 67; 
Morison, SicUy-Salerno-Anxxo, p. 260. 



156 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



Unit assignments for the invasion 
force continued all summer. In the final 
operation plan of 26 August, the Ameri- 
can VI Corps, with five divisions, was 
to seize the right-hand half of the land- 
ing zone south of the Sele River around 
the Roman ruin of Paestum while the 
British 10 Corps assaulted the north- 
ern half of the beachhead closer to the 
town of Salerno. All veterans of the 
theater, the 3d, 34th, 36th, and 45th 
Infantry Divisions would accompany the 
1st Armored and 8 2d Airborne Divi- 
sions. Apart from the support provided 
for the invasion, each division had its 
assigned organic engineer battalion, the 
10th Engineer Battalion with the 3d 
Division, the 109th with the 34th Divi- 
sion, the 1 1 1th with the 36th, and the 
120th with the 45th; the 1st Armored 
Division had the services of the 16th 
Armored Engineer Battalion, and the 
airborne division had the 307th Air- 
borne Engineer Battalion. As one of 
the most practiced units in amphibi- 
ous attacks, the 36th Infantry Division 
was assigned the actual beach assault. 
The division's 141st Infantry Regiment 
was on the extreme right, landing on 
Yellow and Blue beaches, where a medi- 
eval stone tower at Paestum afforded a 
good point of reference for incoming 
boats. The 142d Infantry, to land on 
Red and Green beaches to the left of 
the 141st, covered the area north to an 
artificial waterway, the Fiumarello 
Canal; the two regiments were assault- 
ing an expanse of 3,740 yards of contig- 
uous beach front. 

A Navy beachmaster was to maintain 
all communications with the ships and 
control all the operational landings. A 
port headquarters, consisting of two 
Transportation Corps port battalions, 
was to coordinate all unloading into 



small craft offshore, but the pivot of 
beach supply operations was the 531st 
Engineer Shore Regiment and the 
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, the 
former assuming responsibility during 
the assault phase. The 531st, a compo- 
nent of the 1st Engineer Special Bri- 
gade for the invasion, replaced the 
343d Engineer General Service Regi- 
ment, which was trained in beach sup- 
port operations but had neither the 
experience nor the equipment to carry 
out this function. Alerted in Sicily only 
two weeks before the invasion, the 531st 
traveled to Oran, the staging area for 
part of the invasion force, while the 
540th reported to the assembly area of 
the 45th Infantry Division around 
Palermo. Neither regiment participated 
in the planning for the invasion, nor 
did their officers see the maps for the 
operation or the stowage plans for the 
vessels to be unloaded off the beaches; 
for the most part, they saw the troops 
they were supporting for the first time 
on the sand under German fire. 4 

In other respects engineer prepara- 
tions for the Salerno invasion were 
more thorough. Fifth Army and 
NATOUSA engineers requisitioned 
supplies, trained engineer troops, ana- 
lyzed terrain, and produced detailed 
maps. After the final selection of the 
Salerno site the engineer mapping sub- 
section, Fifth Army, studied in detail 
the terrain of the region, its ridge and 
drainage systems, communications, 
water supply, ports, and beaches. These 
studies gave the engineers vital infor- 
mation for annotating maps. 



4 Engineer History, Mediterranean, p. 5; Hist 531st 
Engr Shore Rgt, 29 Nov 42 -Apr 45; AGF Bd Rpts, 
NATOUSA, 15 Nov 43; Interv, Brig Gen George W. 
Gardes, 5 Nov 59. 



FROM SALERNO TO THE VOLTURNO 



157 



Planning for engineer supply at Saler- 
no rested ultimately with the engineer 
of SOS, NATOUSA. On 25 July Maj. 
Irving W. Finberg, chief of the Fifth 
Army Engineer Supply Section, re- 
ported to the SOS engineer as Fifth 
Army liaison officer to prepare requisi- 
tions covering the estimated needs of 
Fifth Army engineers. Within two weeks 
Finberg submitted the basic require- 
ments. Wherever possible, his listing 
became the basis for freeze orders on 
SOS, NATOUSA, stocks in North 
Africa, which eventually reserved 
10,545 long tons of engineer supply for 
the invasion. Base section depots re- 
ported items not available in the the- 
ater pipeline, and units in the theater 
not scheduled for the forthcoming op- 
eration gave supplies and equipment 
to units going into the assault. The SOS, 
NATOUSA, command made up short- 
ages by ordering critical items directly 
from the New York Port of Embarka- 
tion, requisitions amounting to 3,638 
long tons. Confusion still reigned in 
some quarters, especially since engi- 
neer, quartermaster, and ordnance sup- 
ply was intermixed in theater stocks, 
and inadequate inventory procedures 
frequently led to ordering materiel 
already on hand but unidentified. 5 

As the supply planning and acquisi- 
tion proceeded, Fifth Army operated 
eight training schools. At Port-aux- 
Poules, near Arzew in Algeria, Brig. 
Gen. John W. O'Daniel opened the 
Fifth Army Invasion Training Center 
on 14 January 1943. Relieved of its 
function in Sicily late in the summer, 
the 1st Engineer Special Brigade prac- 
ticed combined operations with naval 



5 Logistical History of NATOUSA-MTOUSA, p. 58. 



units and coordinated air cover over 
beach areas serving the center. The 
17th Armored Engineer Battalion, the 
334th Engineer Combat Battalion, the 
540th and 39th Engineer Combat Regi- 
ments, and two separate engineer battal- 
ions, the 378th and the 384th, took part 
in training exercises with live fire, the 
object being to make men battle-wise in 
the shortest possible time. Outside the 
center, elements of the 16th Armored 
Engineer Battalion, the 109th Engineer 
Combat Battalion, and the 1st Engineer 
Special Brigade headquarters had joint 
and combined training in beach opera- 
tions which included mine-clearing 
work. The 16th Armored Engineer 
Battalion also ran two mine schools at 
Ste.-Barbe-du-Tlelat for the men of the 
1st Armored Division and organized its 
own refreshers in infantry tactics, 
bridging, and field fortifications. 

A separate engineer training center 
opened on 12 March 1943, near Ain 
Fritissa in French Morocco at an aban- 
doned French Foreign Legion fort. 
Under Lt. Col. Aaron A. Wyatt, Jr., the 
school concentrated on practical work 
under simulated battle conditions. Brit- 
ish Eighth Army instructors taught 
mine and countermine warfare. The 
final problem, usually undertaken at 
night, split the students into two groups, 
one of which planted mines for the sec- 
ond to unearth. Though the mines 
employed were training devices with 
only igniter fuses attached, several live 
and armed standard charges were in- 
terspersed with the dummies. As the 
engineer students struggled in the dark- 
ness, assembled tanks and infantry fired 
37-mm. shells and automatic and small- 
arms rounds overhead, and instructors 
stationed in towers detonated buried 
artillery shells on the field. By the time 



158 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



of the invasion over a thousand offi- 
cers and noncoms had completed the 
courses at the engineer center, with 
twenty-seven casualties and one fatality 
during the exercises. 

An adjunct to the center was a re- 
search and development staff that in- 
vestigated and tested new mechanical 
mine-clearing devices such as the Scor- 
pion flail as it became available from 
British sources. As soon as they ap- 
peared in the theater, the German Schu 
mines were also the object of the staffs 
attention. Though the center operated 
with unqualified success, it labored con- 
stantly under the disadvantages of 
being an ad hoc organization with no 
standard organization tables. Originally 
blessed with one armored engineer 
company and four combat engineer 
companies as demonstration units, Col- 
onel Wyatt could rarely keep on hand 
enough veteran technicians in mine 
warfare and never had enough trans- 
portation. 

The engineers produced maps and 
charts by the thousands for the Ameri- 
can invasion force. Originally relying 
on existing small-scale charts on hand, 
some of foreign manufacture, the map- 
makers found their enlargements poor. 
Urgent requisitions for new maps scaled 
at the standard 1:25,000, 1:50,000, 
1 : 100,000, and 1 :250,000 soon supplied 
adequate coverage for nearly the whole 
of the south-central Italian peninsula 
from the latitude of Salerno to that of 
Anzio. Larger scale maps, 1:500,000 
and 1:1,000,000, covered the area 
north of Rome. Finally the engineers 
obtained detailed road maps of the 
Naples area and beach defense over- 
lays for Salerno which gave annotated 
legends for points of concealment, lines 
of communications, water supply, and 



ridge lines in the immediate area of 
assault. A single map unit, the 2699th 
Engineer Map Depot Detachment (Pro- 
visional), attached to the 531st Engi- 
neer Shore Regiment for the operation, 
spent most of the time before the inva- 
sion virtually imprisoned in a large 
garage in Oran while it packed 1:50,000 
and 1:1,000,000 maps, fifty to the 
sealed roll. The map depot detachment 
carried enough maps into the invasion 
to resupply each combat unit with 100 
percent of its original issue. 

Amphibious exercises in the two 
weeks before the invasion suffered 
from too little realism. In COW- 
PUNCHER', run from 26 to 29 August, 
the 36th Infantry Division acted as 
attacker at Port-aux-Poules and Arzew 
against the defending 34th Infantry 
Division. Loath to expose vessels to 
enemy submarine attacks during the 
exercise, the Navy could not support 
the rehearsal in detail, and only a token 
unloading of vehicles, supply, and muni- 
tions over the beaches was possible. On 
29 August Company I, 531st Engineer 
Shore Regiment, demonstrated beach 
organization procedure to 1,000 sailors; 
three days later Company H partici- 
pated in a simulated beach exercise with 
the Navy, but no small boats were used. 
On Sicily, the 45th Infantry Division 
staged one rehearsal for the coming 
landing. 

The Invasion 

On 3 September the British Eighth 
Army struck across the Strait of Mes- 
sina, and the long and bitter Italian 
campaign was under way. On 5 Sep- 
tember the first of the invasion con- 
voys for AVALANCHE left Oran and 
Mers-el-Kebir, and at precisely sched- 



FROM SALERNO TO THE VOLTURNO 



159 



uled intervals thereafter, convoys moved 
out of other ports in North Africa and 
Sicily. They came together north of 
Palermo and converged on the Gulf of 
Salerno during the evening of 8 Sep- 
tember. Aboard were the U.S. VI Corps' 
36th Division, the British 10 Corps' 
46th and 56th Divisions, three battal- 
ions of American Rangers and two of 
British commandos, and a floating 
reserve, the American 45th Division 
less one regimental combat team. The 
141st had the southern Yellow and Blue 
beaches as assault targets; the 142d was 
to take the northern Red and Green 
beaches on th e left, clo ser to the Fiu- 
marello Canal. (Map 8) 

Fortune seemed to tavor the land- 
ings. As the convoys approached the 
mainland under air cover, the ships' 
radios picked up the voice of General 
Eisenhower declaring that "hostilities 
between *the United Nations and Italy 
have terminated, effective at once." 
When the assault began shortly before 
0330 on 9 September, the weather was 
good, the sea was calm, and the moon 
had set. As the first wave of LC VPs 
carrying VI Corps' troops grounded 
south of the Sele River, the men saw 
flashes of gunfire to the north where 
the British were landing, but their own 
beaches were dark and silent. Then, as 
they were leaving their craft and mak- 
ing their way ashore through the shal- 
lows, flares suddenly illuminated the 
shoreline, machine-gun and mortar fire 
erupted from the dunes, and from the 
arc of hills enclosing the coastal plain 
artillery shells rained down. 

The heaviest concentration of German 
fire fell on the southernmost beaches, 
Yellow and Blue. The 3d Battalion of 
the 531st Engineer Shore Regiment, 
coming in on the second wave in sup- 



port of the 141st Infantry, was unable 
to land on Yellow and had to turn to 
Blue, where things were not much bet- 
ter. No boats could land on Blue after 
daybreak, and for most of the day the 
engineer battalion's Company I was 
pinned down. At one time the com- 
pany's command post was only 300 
yards from a point where the infantry 
was fending off a German attack. 

The regiment's 2d Battalion, sup- 
porting the 142d Infantry, was able to 
land on Red and Green beaches. The 
unit suffered several casualties but re- 
ported at 0530 that Red Beach was 
ready for traffic. Landing craft and 
DUKWs floundering offshore con- 
verged on Red, but the concentration 
drew heavy artillery fire that knocked 
many of them out. The disruption made 
it impossible to open any of the beaches 
for several hours; much of the engi- 
neers' equipment was scattered or sunk, 
and the mine-clearing and construction 
crews could not land as units. The delay 
in opening the beaches, as well as en- 
emy fire on boat lanes, prevented VI 
Corps from landing tanks and artillery 
before daylight, as had been planned. 

At daylight another menace appeared. 
A German tank came down to the shore 
between Yellow and Blue beaches and 
fired on each landing craft that ap- 
proached. More enemy tanks began fir- 
ing from the main road behind the 
dunes. The landing parties, without 
tanks and heavy artillery, had to repel 
the Germans with 40-mm. antiaircraft 
guns, 105-mm. howitzers, and bazoo- 
kas, an effort in which the engineers of 
the 531st played an important part. 
When five Mark IV tanks tried to break 
through to Blue Beach, seven engineers 
of Company I helped to repel them 
with bazookas. At Yellow Beach, where 



FROM SALERNO TO THE VOLTURNO 



161 




DUKWs Head for the Salerno Beaches 



40-mm. antiaircraft guns and 105-mm. 
howitzers had been hastily set up at the 
water's edge, a bulldozer operator of 
Company H, T/5 Charles E. Harris, 
pulled the guns into position in the 
dune line. He was wounded by machine- 
gun fire from a German tank but con- 
tinued to operate his bulldozer until it 
went out of action. On all the beaches 
the big bulldozers were easy targets, 
their operators working under constant 
fire. 

The first beaches open were Red and 
Green. Not until shortly after noon 
were landing craft discharging at Yel- 
low, while Blue remained closed most 
of the afternoon. By nightfall all were 
in operation, and tanks, tank destroyers, 
and heavy artillery were landing and 



moving out of the beachhead. The engi- 
neers cut through wire obstructions, 
laid steel matting, and improved exit 
roads, while the 36th Division's infan- 
try regiments advanced inland. That 
night two companies of the 36th Engi- 
neer Combat Regiment, landing on 
D-day as part of 36th Division's infan- 
try reserve, served as a screen against 
armor along the Sele River. 6 

Next morning German planes came 
over Red Beach and dropped a bomb 
squarely on the command post of the 
531st Engineers' 2d Battalion, killing 



6 Hist 531st Engr Shore Rgt, 29 Nov 42-Apr 45; 
2d Bn, 20 Aug-30 Sep 43; 3d Bn, 20 Aug-30 Sep 
43; Comments of Brig Gen George W. Gardes, Incl to 
Ltr, Gardes to Jesse A. Remington, 8 Dec 59. 



162 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 




LSTs and Auxiliary Ships Unload Men and Supply at Salerno 



two officers and seriously wounding 
two others. Artillery shells also fell 
on the beachhead, but there was no 
ground fighting in the American sec- 
tor near Paestum on 10 or 11 Septem- 
ber. The Germans were concentrating 
their forces in the north against the 
British 10 Corps. 

General Clark became concerned 
about a group of American Rangers 
that had landed on the west flank of 10 
Corps on the Sorrento peninsula be- 
tween the tiny ports of Amalfi and 
Maiori to help the British secure the 
mountain passes leading to Naples. On 
Clark's orders a task force built around 
an infantry battalion moved by sea from 
the VI Corps' beaches to support the 
Rangers. Aboard the eighteen landing 



craft that started north on 1 1 Septem- 
ber were two companies of engineers, 
one from the 36th Engineer Combat 
Regiment and the other from the 540th 
Engineer Combat Regiment, the latter 
having landed with the 45th Division 
on D plus l. 7 

The bulk of the 540th pitched in to 
aid the 531st in organizing the beaches. 
Goods of all description crowded the 
shoreline, barracks bags accumulated 
on the narrow beachhead, and the con- 
gestion finally forced the closing of Red 
and Green beaches. Unsorted stacks of 
ammunition, gas, food, water, and 



' Gardes comments, 8 Dec 59; Hist 540th Engr C 
Rgt, 1 1 Sep 42-15 Feb 45. 



FROM SALERNO TO THE VOLTURNO 



163 



equipment extended seaward into sev- 
eral feet of water, while ships offshore 
could not unload. This situation im- 
proved somewhat after a new beach, 
Red 2, opened to the left of Red Beach 
and north of the Fiumarello Canal. 8 

Naval officers criticized engineer op- 
eration of the beaches and attributed 
traffic jams to poor beach exits and the 
failure of some engineers to make ade- 
quate arrangements to transfer supplies 
from the beaches to dispersal areas far- 
ther inland. A major Navy complaint 
was that Navy boat crews had to do 
most of the unloading with little assis- 
tance from the engineers, whose re- 
sponsibility it was. The Navy beach- 
master estimated that during the assault 
phase Navy crews unloaded or beached 
90 percent of the supplies and equip- 
ment. 9 

In fact, the beach engineers could not 
possibly have handled all the tonnage 
that came to the beaches during the 
assault phase. Combat units and equip- 
ment grew out of all proportion to ser- 
vice troops. The 531st went ashore on 
the morning of D-day more than 200 
men understrength and soon was weak- 
ened further by casualties. To assist the 
531st in unloading, setting up dumps, 
maintaining roads, and clearing mine- 
fields, a battalion of the 337th Engi- 
neer General Service Regiment, a Fifth 
Army unit, landed on Red Beach at 
1630 but could accomplish little because 
its equipment did not come in for sev- 
eral days. Both the 53 1st and the 540th 
Engineer Regiments arrived short of 



equipment, notably mine detectors and 
trucks. Few engineer supplies began 
arriving before D plus 1, and most of 
what came in was not what was most 
wanted. The first engineer supply item 
ashore was a forty-gallon fire extin- 
guisher, while other items landed early 
were sandbags, lumber, and tools. Later, 
a few cranes came in. Once ashore, the 
two regiments felt they did not get 
enough information from the Navy 
beachmaster as to what LSTs or car- 
goes were arriving and where they 
would land. As in TORCH and HUSKY, 
the line between Army and Navy re- 
sponsibility remained vague. 10 

The Fifth Army engineer, Colonel 
Bowman, came ashore on D plus 1 and 
set out in a jeep to find a suitable place 
for the army command post. He turned 
north from the congested beachhead, 
and near the juncture of the Sele and 
Calore Rivers, not far from the bound- 
ary between VI Corps and 10 Corps, 
he found the house of Baron Roberto 
Ricciardi, set in a lovely Italian garden. 

In the next three days, the sound of 
artillery fire in the north, where the 
Germans were concentrating against 10 
Corps, came close; and it was in this 
sectqr between the two corps that engi- 
neer troops first manned frontline posi- 
tions. On a warning from General Clark 
that a German counterattack might hit 
the north flank, the VI Corps com- 
mander, Maj. Gen. Ernest J. Dawley, 
reinforced two regiments of the 45th 
Division with the 3d Battalion of the 
36th Engineer Combat Regiment. The 



8 VI Corps Hist Record, Sep 43; WNTF Action Rpt 
of Salerno Landing, Sep-Oct 43, p. 152; AGF Bd 
Rpt 279, MTO, 24 Jan 45. 

9 WNTF Action Rpt of Salerno Landings, pp. 151 — 
52; Morison, SicUy-Salerno-Anzio, pp. 264, 269. 



10 Rpt of SOS Observer of Opn Avalanche, 9-21 
Sep 43, SOS NATOUSA; Rpt, HQ, 1st ESB, to CG, 
NATOUSA, 29 Oct 43, sub: Operation of Shore 
Engineers, Italy; Engineer History, Mediterranean, pp. 
18, 19. 



164 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



engineers moved into the line a few 
miles north of the Sele River shortly 
after midnight on 12 September, along 
with a battery of 105-mm. howitzers; 
by dawn they were in contact with Brit- 
ish 10 Corps patrols. At 1000 the divi- 
sion launched an attack. The Germans 
counterattacked with tanks and artil- 
lery, killing two engineer officers, and 
by dusk had infiltrated and cut off a 
forward body of engineers that included 
the battalion commander. The engi- 
neer regimental commander, Lt. Col. 
George W. Gardes, took over the bat- 
talion. Before daybreak on 13 Septem- 
ber the battalion attained its objective, 
which turned out to have been one of 
the strongpoints of the German defense 
system, 11 

During 12 September German fire 
increased in the American sector and 
an enemy attack dislodged a 36th Divi- 
sion battalion from its position on hills 
near Altavilla, south of the Calore River. 
The increased German pressure resulted 
from the reinforcement of the 16th Pan- 
zer Division, which had borne the full 
force of the invasion, by the 29th Pan- 
zer Division, moving up from Calabria. 
Not only divisional engineers of the 
111th Engineer Combat Battalion but 
also corps and even army engineers bol- 
stered 36th Division defenses. On 13 
September two battalions of the 531st 
Engineer Shore Regiment were called 
off beach work for combat. One went 
inland to act as reserve, the other took 
up defensive positions on high ground 
south and southeast of the beachhead. 12 

The situation worsened during the 
day, indicating that the Germans were 



1 1 Gardes comments, 8 Dec 59. 

12 Hist 531st Engr Shore Rgt, 29 Nov 42-Apr 45. 



trying to break through to the beach- 
head, and the 36th Engineer Combat 
Regiment had to furnish another bat- 
talion to act as infantry. Moving out at 
midnight, the regiment's 2d Battalion 
occupied high ground along the south 
bank of the Calore River astride a road 
leading into the beachhead from Alta- 
villa. This position came under heavy 
artillery fire throughout 14 and 15 
September, and tank and infantry at- 
tacks also menaced it. On the afternoon 
of 14 September German tanks clanked 
over a stone bridge spanning the Calore 
and began to move up a narrow, one- 
way road winding toward the engineers' 
position. The engineers were ready for 
them. From a quarry recessed into the 
hillside, they fired a 37-mm. cannon 
and a .50-caliber machine gun point- 
blank at the lead tank, knocking it out 
to form a roadblock in front of the fol- 
lowing tanks, which then withdrew un- 
der American artillery fire. The next 
afternoon the engineers saw German 
infantrymen getting off trucks on the 
north side of the river, apparently 
readying for an attack. The engineers 
brought the German infantry under 
fire, inflicting observed losses. 

In the 45th Division sector north of 
the Sele River, a tank-infantry attack 
hit the 3d Battalion, 36th Engineers, 
on 14 September. German tanks over- 
ran part of one company's position, but 
the engineers stayed in their foxholes 
and stopped the following infantry 
while U.S. tank destroyers engaged the 
tanks. Another company of the 3d Bat- 
talion stopped a Mark IV tank with 
bazookas and that night captured a Ger- 
man scout car and took three prisoners. 
During the day the battalion was rein- 
forced by part of the 45th Division's 
120th Engineer Combat Battalion, all 



FROM SALERNO TO THE VOLTURNO 



165 



of which had operated as infantry since 
13 September. 13 

General Clark, who had hastily moved 
Colonel Bowman's command post to 
the rear, was so concerned about a Ger- 
man breakthrough to the beachhead 
that at one point on 13 September he 
contemplated a withdrawal to the 10 
Corps' zone. But the lines held long 
enough for reinforcements to come 
from Sicily. Parachute troops of the 82d 
Airborne Division, dropped on the 
beachhead in the early hours of 14 Sep- 
tember and trucked to the southern 
flank, turned the tide. When the 3d 
Infantry Division began landing from 
LSTs on the morning of 18 September 
the enemy was withdrawing. 1 

Plans for the advance beyond Salerno 
were determined at a conference Gen- 
eral Clark called on 18 September. 
Naples on the west coast, one of the 
two prime objectives, was to be the tar- 
get of Fifth Army; the other objective, 
the airfields around Foggia near the 
east coast, was to be the target of Gen- 
eral Montgomery's Eighth Army, which 
by 18 September was in a position -to 
move abreast of Fifth Army up the Ital- 
ian peninsula. In the Fifth Army effort, 
10 Corps was to move north along the 
coast to capture Naples and drive to 
the Volturno River twenty-five miles 
beyond while VI Corps made a wide 
flanking movement through the moun- 
tains to protect the 10 Corps advance. 

A Campaign of Bridges 
In addition to active German resis- 



1-1 Gardes comments, 8 Dec 59; Engineer History, 
Mediterranean, pp. 20, 22. 

14 Donald G. Taggart, ed., History of the Third Infan- 
try Division in World War II (Washington: Infantry Jour- 
nal Press, 1947), p. 80. 



tance, terrain was a principal obstacle 
in the flank march that opened on 20 
September. Maj. Gen. John P. Lucas 
took over the VI Corps advance just as 
it started, arraying the 3d Division on 
the left and the 45th on the right, but 
found his troops entirely roadbound. 
Italian terrain was far worse for mili- 
tary maneuver than that in Sicily; cross- 
country movement was next to impos- 
sible, not only over mountain heights 
but even in the valleys, where vehicles 
were likely to be stopped by stone walls, 
irrigation ditches, or German mines. 
The enemy had blown all the bridges 
carrying roadbeds over the numerous 
gullies, ravines, and streams. Forward 
movement in Italy became for the engi- 
neers a campaign of bridges. 

According to policies Colonel Bow- 
man laid down, divisional engineers 
were to get the troops across streams 
any way they could: bypasses when 
possible, fills when culverts had been 
blown, or Bailey bridging. Corps engi- 
neers were to follow up, replacing the 
small Fills with culverts and the bypasses 
with Bailey bridges. Army engineers 
were to replace the larger culverts and 
the Baileys with fixed pile bridges. All 
bridges were to be two-way, Class 40 
structures. 

Even veteran units had rough going. 
The 10th Engineer Combat Battalion, 
supporting the 3d Division in the ad- 
vance to the Volturno, was the battal- 
ion that had built the "bridge in the 
sky" in Sicily. The divisional engineers 
of the 45th Division, the 120th Engi- 
neer Combat Battalion, had also had 
hard service in the mountains during 
the Sicily campaign. The corps engi- 
neers behind them came from the 36th 
Engineer Combat Regiment, which had 
distinguished itself in the defense of 



166 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



the beachhead. Yet it took these exper- 
ienced, battle-hardened engineers ten 
days to get the troops sixty miles over 
the mountains to the first major VI 
Corps objective, Avellino, a town about 
twenty-five miles east of Naples on the 
Naples-Foggia road. 

The Germans had blown nearly every 
bridge and culvert, made abatis of tree 
trunks, sown mines, and emplaced booby 
traps. Demolitions, shelling, and bomb- 
ing had cratered road surfaces. In the 
towns, rubble from destroyed stone 
buildings blocked traffic. But the weath- 
er was still good, so engineers could 
bulldoze bypasses around obstructions. 
"There was no weapon more valuable 
than the engineer bulldozer," General 
Truscott attested, "no soldiers more 
effective than the engineers who moved 
us forward." Bypasses around blown 
bridges saved the time required to bring 
up bridging. In the advance to the 
Volturno the 10th Engineer Combat 
Battalion constructed sixty-nine by- 
passes but only a few timber and Bailey 
bridges. 15 

The Bailey seemed made for the 
Steep-banked, swiftly flowing rivers and 
the narrow gorges of the Italian coun- 
tryside. It could be launched from one 
side or bank without intermediate sup- 
ports. In the early phase of the Italian 
campaign the Germans did not com- 
prehend its potential, so they were satis- 
fied with destroying only parts of long 
bridges instead qf all the spans and 
piers. The engineers quickly used those 
parts left standing to throw a Bailey 
over a stream or ravine 16 



15 Engineer History, Mediterranean, p. 25; Truscott, 
Command Missions, p. 259. 

16 VI Corps Hist Record, Sep 43, The Mounting of 
Avalanche, p. 14; Chf Engr, 15th Army Gp, Notes 
on Engr Opns in Italy, no. 6, 1 Jan 44. 



The Bailey became all the more es- 
sential when the engineers discovered 
that timber for wooden bridges was 
scarce, at times as much as seventy-five 
miles distant. Yet the supply of Baileys 
was woefully inadequate. The 36th 
Engineer Combat Regiment built more 
than eighty bridges and sizable culverts 
between the breakout at Salerno and 
the end of December but during that 
time received only three Baileys. 17 In 
the first month after the landings, the 
Fifth Army engineers had only five sets 
of the much sought after 1 20-foot dou- 
ble-double Baileys. 

One major reason for the shortage 
of bridging in this early stage of the 
Italian campaign was a faulty estimate 
by planners at AFHQ. They had fore- 
seen that highway destruction would be 
tremendous, had assumed that the en- 
emy would demolish all bridges, and 
had figured that an average of thirty 
feet of bridging per mile of main road 
would be required. But the estimate did 
not take into account the secondary 
roads that had to be used to support 
the offensive. 18 

A shortage of bridge-building mate- 
rial and heavy equipment also ham- 
pered the work of engineers building a 
bridge over the Sele River to carry 
Highway 18 traffic northward from the 
beachhead to Avellino. This bridge was 
crucial because the beaches continued 
to be the main source of supplies for 
Fifth Army for a considerable time after 
Naples fell. 

A company of the 16th Armored En- 
gineer Battalion put in the first bridge 
over the Sele, a floating treadway, on 
10 September. It was replaced the fol- 



17 Gardes comments, 8 Dec 59. 

1 8 Engineer History, Mediterranean, p. 10. 



FROM SALERNO TO THE VOLTURNO 



167 



lowing day by a 120-foot trestle tread- 
way to carry forty-ton loads. During 12 
and 13 September a battalion of the 
36th Engineer Combat Regiment em- 
placed two more floating bridges, and 
on 22 September the 337th Engineer 
General Service Regiment began build- 
ing the first fixed bridge the U.S. Army 
constructed in Italy over the Sele. It 
was of trestle bent construction, 16 
spans, and 240 feet long. In spite of 
the equipment shortage, the job was 
completed by 28 September. 19 

However, the bridge was undermined 
by the shifting sands of the river bot- 
tom and from the start required con- 
stant maintenance. When heavy rains 
fell early in October, making a rushing 
torrent of the normally sluggish Sele, 
the bridge went out. The 531st Engi- 
neer Shore Regiment altered the rail- 
rqad bridge over the Sele to take trucks 
so that the vital supply line would not 
be interrupted. Then they repaired the 
road bridge by driving piling through 
the floor and jacking the bridge up and 
onto the new pile bents. After this 
experience, engineers abandoned tres- 
de construction in favor of pile bridges. 
In the construction of a 100-foot pile- 
bent bridge about halfway between 
Salerno and Avellino, near Fisciano, the 
engineers of the 53 1st improvised a pile 
driver, using the barrel of a German 
155-mm. gun and a D— 4 tractor. 20 

Naples 

When Naples fell on 1 October 1?)43, 



Fifth Army's supply situation was dete- 
riorating rapidly. Truck hauls from the 
Salerno beaches were becoming longer 
and more difficult. Unloadings over the 
Salerno beaches were at the mercy of 
the elements, and the elements had just 
struck a blow for the enemy. A violent 
storm that blew up on 28 September 
halted unloading for 2 1/2 days and 
wrecked a large number of landing 
craft and ponton ramps. Supplies dwin- 
dled. On 6 October the army had only 
three days' supply of gasoline, and dur- 
ing the first half of October issues of 
Class I and Class III supplies from army 
dumps outstripped receipts. The early 
reconstruction of Naples and of trans- 
portation lines was of prime impor- 
tance. 21 

Naples, with a natural deepwater 
harbor, was the second ranking port in 
Italy and had a normal discharge capac- 
ity of 8,000 tons per day. 22 The water 
alongside most of its piers and quays 
was thirty feet deep or more, enough 
to accommodate fully loaded Liberty 
ships. There was virtually no tide; the 
water level varied only a foot or two, a 
result of wind swell as much as tidal 
action. 

Naples was the most damaged port 
U.S. Army engineers had yet encoun- 
tered during the war. Allied aerial bom- 
bardment had probably caused one- 
third to one-half the destruction in the 
port area and more than half that in 
the POL tank farm and refinery areas. 
Carefully planned German demolition 
had been effective. Damage to the quays 



19 Ibid., pp. 12, 13, 20, 22; Hist of Activities of the 
337th GS Rgt with the Fifth Army in Italy, 9 Sep 
43-1 Nov 44. 

20 Interv, Shotwell with Brig Gen Frank O. Bowman, 
19 Jan 51; Hist 531st Engr Shore Rgt, 29 Nov 42-Apr 
45. 



21 Fifth Army History, vol. I, p. 66. 

Except as otherwise noted, this section on Naples 
is based on Rpt on Rehabilitation of Naples and Other 
Captured Ports, by Col Percival A. Wakeman et al., 28 
Nov 43. 



168 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



and piers was slight, for they were built 
of huge blocks of masonry and not eas- 
ily demolished. Most of the damage to 
them came incidentally from demoli- 
tions that destroyed pier cranes and 
other port-operating equipment. The 
Germans had directed their destruction 
toward cargo-handling equipment, and 
they blocked the waters with every piece 
of once-floating equipment available. 
When Fifth Army troops entered the 
city, thirty-two large ships and several 
hundred smaller craft lay sunk in Na- 
ples harbor, blocking fifty-eight of the 
sixty-one berths available and cutting 
the normal capacity of the port by 90 
percent. 23 

On the land side, a wall of debris iso- 
lated the dock area from the rest of the 
city; Allied bombing and German de- 
molitions had destroyed most of the 
buildings near the docks. Only steel 
reinforced buildings stood, and most 
of them were badly damaged and lit- 
tered with debris. The enemy destroyed 
all of some 300 cranes in the port area; 
in many cases the demolition charges 
were placed so as to tip the structure 
into the waters alongside the quays. 
Tons of rubble from nearby buildings 
were also blown into the water to block 
access to the quays. 24 

Despite the widespread destruction, 
engineer and survey parties had rea- 
sons for optimism. Sea mines were 
found only in the outer harbor. Also, 
the enemy had sunk ships adjacent to 
the quays or randomly about the har- 
bor, not in the entrance channels where 



23 PBS, Public Relations Sect, Tools of War: An Illus- 
trated History of the Peninsular Base Section (Leghorn, 
Italy, 1946); Fifth Army History, vol. II, p. 66. 

24 History of Restoration of Port of Naples, 1051st 
Engr Port Construction and Repair Gp, 10 Dec 43, 
Engr Sch Lib. 



they could have denied the Allies use 
of the port for weeks, perhaps months. 

Within the city debris blocked sev- 
eral streets. Rails and bridges on the 
main lines had been systematically de- 
stroyed. Ties and ballast, on the other 
hand, were generally undisturbed in 
Naples itself. Most of the large public 
buildings were either demolished or 
gutted by fire, and others were mined 
with time-delay charges. Large indus- 
trial buildings and manufacturing plants 
generally were prepared for demoli- 
tions, but most charges had not been 
fired. No booby traps were found in 
the harbor area and not a great many 
throughout the city. 

Public utilities — electricity, water, 
sewage — were all disrupted. With the 
great Serino aqueducts cut in several 
places, the city had been without water 
for several days, for most of the wells 
within the city had long since been con- 
demned and plugged. The only elec- 
tricity immediately available came from 
generators Allied units brought in. 
Local generating stations were dam- 
aged, and transmission lines from the 
principal source of power, a hydroelec- 
tric plant fifty miles south of Naples, 
were down. The distribution system 
within the city was also damaged, and 
demolitions had blocked much of the 
sewer system. 

Fifth Army engineer units entering 
the city from the land side started clear- 
ing debris from the port. Detachments 
of the 1 1 1 th Engineer Combat Battal- 
ion (divisional engineers of the 36th 
Division) went to work clearing a road 
around the harbor. The 540th Engi- 
neer Combat Regiment, bivouacking in 
a city park overlooking the Bay of Na- 
ples, had the job of clearing the harbor. 
With dynamite, bulldozer, torch, crane, 



FROM SALERNO TO THE VOLTURNO 



169 



and shovel, the men of the 540th filled 
craters, hacked roads through debris, 
cleared docks, and leveled buildings. 
Within twenty-four hours the har- 
bor was receiving LSTs and LCTs, and 
exit roads were making it possible for 
DUK Ws to bring cargoes inland from 
Liberty ships in the bay. 25 The 1051st 
Engineer Port Construction and Repair 
Group, attached to the Fifth Army Base 
Section, arrived on 2 October but could 
do little more than survey the chaos 
until base engineer troops came on the 
scene. 

The engineers working on the docks 
undertook their tasks in three phases. 
The first, based on quick estimates, was 
the clearing of debris to provide access 
to those berths not blocked by sunken 
ships. The second involved expedient 
construction, and this the engineers 
undertook after a reasonably compre- 
hensive survey made it feasible to plan 
for future activities. The third phase, 
reconstruction, involved more time- 
consuming projects that started only 
after the possibilities of providing facili- 
ties by expedient construction had been 
exhausted. 

The first phase, which occurred from 
3 to 5 October, was the most critical 
one. Since demands for berthing and 
unloading space were urgent, there was 
no time for deliberate, planned activity. 
All available army and base section 
engineers and equipment had to be 
committed against obstacles blocking 
the initial unloading points. Navy sal- 
vage units, equipped with small naval 
salvage vessels and aided by Royal Navy 
salvage units with heavy lifting equip- 
ment, entered the harbor on 4 October 



" Hist 540th Engr C Rgt, 1 1 Sep 42-15 Feb 45. 



to locate ships and craft that obstructed 
berthing space. Coordinating with the 
naval units, the 1051st Engineer Port 
Construction and Repair Group sur- 
veyed landward obstructions. 

Although only 3 1/2 Liberty berths 
were available on 7 October, berthing 
space grew rapidly with the expedient 
construction. On 16 October, 6,236 tons 
of cargo came ashore, a figure that 
included 263 vehicles. By the end of 
the month 13 1/2 Liberty berths and 6 
coaster berths were available for use 
(the goal set early in October was 15 
Liberty berths and 5 coaster berths by 
1 November). The most urgent require- 
ments had been met, and supplies in 
the dumps amounted to 3,049 tons. 

Ramps of standard naval pontons, 
laid two units wide, were built far 
enough out into the harbor to accom- 
modate Liberty ships. These ramps 
were easy to build and feasible enough 
in tideless waters, but they were too nar- 
row for cargo and were used only for 
unloading vehicles. More widely used 
were steel and timber ramps which 
engineers were able to construct across 
the decks of sunken ships alongside the 
piers. These ramps became the trade- 
mark of the engineers in the rehabilita- 
tion of Naples. 

AH but two of the large ships block- 
ing the piers were too badly damaged to 
patch and float aside immediately; but. 
most of them lay alongside the quays, 
with their decks above or just below the 
surface of the water. When engineers 
cleared away the superstructures and 
built timber and steel ramps across the 
decks, Liberty ships could tie up along- 
side the sunken hulks and unload di- 
rectly onto trucks on the ramps. As a 
rule T-shaped ramps ten to fifteen feet 
wide were built at each berth and spaced 



170 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 





Decking Placed Over Sunken Vessels to enable loading in Naples harbor. 



to correspond with the five hatches of 
a Liberty ship. The head of the T was 
twenty to twenty-five feet long, allow- 
ing room on the ramp for temporary 
cargo storage and for variations in the 
spacing of hatches on individual ships. 
At first these ramps went out only over 
ships sunk on an even keel; later they 
were built on ships that lay on their 
sides or at an angle to the quay. Eventu- 
ally engineers filled the spaces between 
the ramps with decking to provide more 
working room. 

Another improvisation made the 
larger of two dry docks into a Liberty 
berth. The caisson-type gates had been 
damaged and two ships lay inside the 
dock. Leaks in the gate were sealed 
with tremie concrete, which cures 



under water, and the ships were braced 
to the sides of the dock. The basin was 
then emptied so the ships could be 
patched. Since the walls of the docks 
were not perpendicular, steel scaffold- 
ing had to be built out over the stepped 
masonry walls and covered with timber 
decking. After the ships were refloated 
and pulled away, both sides of a Liberty 
ship could be unloaded at the same time 
in the dry dock. The smaller dry dock 
was used for ship repairs once a sunken 
destroyer had been patched and floated 
out. 

At the foot of one pier a cargo vessel 
lay sunk with one side extending eight 
to ten feet above water. The vessel was 
flat bottomed, so a Liberty ship could 
come in close alongside. Engineers built 



FROM SALERNO TO THE VOLTURNO 



171 



a working platform on the ship with a 
bridge connecting to the pier. At an- 
other pier, where a large hospital ship 
lay sunk with its masts and funnels rest- 
ing against the quays, walkways and 
steps leading across the hulk and down 
to the pier made a berth for discharg- 
ing personnel. 

Clearing away underwater debris also 
released berthing space. Floating and 
land-based cranes removed debris 
along the piers and quays, while port 
construction and repair group divers 
went down to cut loose sunken cranes 
and other steel equipment. 

Peninsular Base 

With the arrival of more service 
troops from North Africa, the Fifth 
Army Base Section assumed more re- 
sponsibility for supply in the army's 
rear. Through summer 1943, Fifth 
Army's support organization was only 
a skeleton, designated 6665th Base 
Area Group (Provisional) and modeled 
after the NATOUSA Adantic Base Sec- 
tion. It changed its provisional charac- 
ter and its name to the full-fledged 
Fifth Army Base Section on 28 August. 
Under Brig. Gen. Arthur W. Pence, an 
advance echelon accompanied Fifth 
Army headquarters to Italy, landing 
at Salerno on D plus 2. General 
Pence established his headquarters at 
Naples the day after the city was 
captured, and on 25 October his com- 
mand became the Peninsular Base Sec- 
tion, with its Engineer Service under 
Col. Donald S. Burns. 26 

By 10 October the first full-sized con- 



26 History of the Peninsular Base Section, North 
African Theater of Operations, 9 Jul 43—1 May 44, 
vol. I, pp. 6—8. 




General Pence 



voy brought the 345th Engineer Gen- 
eral Service Regiment to the base sec- 
tion. The Base Section Engineer Ser- 
vice also had at its disposal the 540th 
Engineer Combat Regiment, two engi- 
neer general service regiments (the 
345th and 94th), the 386th Engineer 
Battalion (Separate), one company of a 
water supply battalion (attached from 
Fifth Army), an engineer port construc- 
tion and repair group, an engineer 
maintenance company, a depot com- 
pany, and a map depot detachment — in 
all, about 6,000 engineers. 27 

Colonel Burns ran all engineer func- 
tions in the base section area, was re- 

27 Ltr, Pence to Truesdell, 26 Nov 43, sub: Organi- 
zation of PBS; Hist PBS, 28 May 44; Hist of the PBS, 
Phases II and III, 28 Aug 43-3 Jan 44; PBS Engr 
Hist, pt. I, 1943—45, sec. I, Chronological Summary; 
Col. Joseph S. Gorlinski, "Naples: Case History in 
Invasion," The Military Engineer, XXXVI (April 1944), 
109-14. 



172 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



sponsible for building and operating 
bulk petroleum installations, and was 
also responsible for new railroad con- 
struction without regard to the army 
rear boundary. When the army's ad- 
vance was slow, base section engineers 
were able to carry both pipeline and 
railroad work well into the army area. 
As for air force construction, the Engi- 
neer Service was responsible not only 
for bulk POL systems in the vicinity of 
airfields, but it also was to provide com- 
mon engineer supplies to aviation engi- 
neers operating in the area. All engi- 
neer units assigned to the base area, 
except for fire-fighting detachments 
(under the base section provost mar- 
shal), were under the command of the 
base section engineer, 28 

The Engineer Service had six 
branches: administration, operations, 
construction, supply, real estate, and 
petroleum. An important function of 
the administrative branch involved 
negotiating with the Allied Military 
Government Labor Office (AMGLO) 
and with the labor administration office 
of the base purchasing agent for civil- 
ians to work with engineer units and 
for office personnel to work at engi- 
neer headquarters. By the end of 1943 
3,126 civilians worked directly for engi- 
neer units or on contracts the base sec- 
tion engineers supervised. Workers 
employed by individual engineer units 
were paid semi-monthly by specially 
appointed agent finance officers at 
wages the AMGLO established. 

The operations branch was responsi- 
ble for issuing administrative instruc- 
tions to engineer units, coordinating 



28 Extracts from Report on Peninsular Base Section, 
NATOUSA, 10 Feb 44, sec. VIII, Engr Service, 381 
NATOUSA, EUCOM Engr files 



engineer troop movements, and keep- 
ing strength, disposition, and status 
reports of personnel and equipment. 
It also issued orders to engineer units 
for minefield clearance. 

The construction branch, heart of the 
Engineer Service organization, applied 
the Engineer Service's resources against 
the mass of requests for construction 
that poured in. It provided technical 
assistance to engineer units, allocated 
priorities among jobs, and established 
and enforced standards of construction. 
The number of jobs was staggering: 
reconstructing the Naples port area; 
restoring public utility services in 
Naples and removing public dangers 
such as time bombs and building skele- 
tons; reopening lines of communica- 
tions; providing troop facilities such as 
hospitals, rest camps, replacement 
camps, quarters, stockades and POW 
enclosures, laundries, and bakeries; 
building supply depots and mainte- 
nance shops; and helping local indus- 
tries get back into production. 29 

The supply branch received material 
requirements estimates from the Fifth 
Army engineer, the III Air Service 
Area Command, the petroleum branch, 
and, later, from the various branches 
of the Engineer Service, Peninsular 
Base Section. It consolidated these req- 
uisitions for submission to the engineer, 
SOS, NATOUSA, through the base sec- 
tion supply office (G— 4). Fifth Army 
had requisitioned supplies for a thirty- 
day maintenance period and had fore- 
cast its needs through November. 
Thereafter, responsibility for requisi- 
tioning engineer supplies rested with 



29 PBS Engr Hist, pt. I; Hist of the PBS, Phases II 
and III. 



FROM SALERNO TO THE VOLTURNO 



173 



the base section engineer. Except for 
emergency orders, engineer requisi- 
tions were submitted monthly and were 
filled from depots in North Africa; 
items not available there were requisi- 
tioned from the New York POE. The 
supply branch also coordinated local 
procurement. 

Responsibility for requisitioning real 
estate for all military purposes in con- 
nection with U.S. base section forces 
also rested with the engineer. Ulti- 
mately, a separate real estate branch 
was established. 

The designation of a petroleum 
branch underscored the importance of 
this new engineer mission. POL prod- 
ucts represented nearly half the gross 
tonnage of supplies shipped into Italy, 
and engineer pipelines were the princi- 
pal means for moving motor and avia- 
tion gasoline once it was discharged 
from tankers at Italian ports. 30 

Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricants 

Petroleum facilities in Naples were 
heavily damaged. Allied bombers had 
hit the tank farms as early as July 1942, 
and many tanks and connecting pipe- 
lines had been pierced by bomb frag- 
ments; others had buckled or had been 
severed by concussion. German demoli- 
tionists had added some finishing 
touches at important pipe connections, 
discharge lines, and tanker berths. How- 
ever, existing petroleum installations in 
Naples were large and much could be 
salvaged. 31 

Sixteen men from the 696th Engi- 



3U PBS Engr Hist, pt. 10, sec. 1. 

31 Extracts from Rpt on PBS, NATOUSA, 10 Feb 
44, sec. VIII. Engr Service; PBS Engr Hist, West Italy 
Pipelines, pt. I, sec. IV, 1943-45. 



neer Petroleum Distribution Company 
entered Naples on 2 October. This 
advance party surveyed existing instal- 
lations, recruited civilian petroleum 
workers, and began clearing away 
debris and salvaging materials. The 
345th Engineers furnished teams of 
mine sweepers. After the main body of 
the 696th arrived two weeks later, the 
connecting pipelines in the terminal 
area were traced, patched, cleaned, and 
tested, and new threaded pipe was laid. 
One after another the huge steel stor- 
age tanks were patched and cleaned. 
This work often involved cutting a door 
in the bottom of a tank, shoveling out 
accumulated sludge, and scrubbing the 
walls with a mixture of diesel oil and 
kerosene. 

Some of this early work proved waste- 
ful. It began before any master plan 
for the POL terminal was available. 
Engineers repaired some tanks with 
floating roofs before they discovered 
that the tanks were warped. The 696th 
had no training or experience in such 
work, and plates welded over small 
holes cracked when they cooled until 
the company learned how to correct the 
problem. Other practices, such as the 
best method for scrubbing down tanks, 
had to come from trial and error. 32 

Not until 24 October did the 696th 
company have the terminal ready to 
receive gasoline, and the first tanker, 
the Empire Emerald, did not actually dis- 



V1 Extracts from Rpt on PBS, NATOUSA, 10 Feb 
44, sec. VIII, Engr Service; Observers Rpt on the 
Engr Service, SOS NATOUSA, Lt Col William F. Pow- 
ers (ca. Mar 44), 370.2 (MTO-NA), EUCOM Engr 
files; Ltr, Col C. Kittrell, SOS NATOUSA Engr, to 
Chf Engr, AFHQ, 10 Aug 44, sub: Cleaning of Stor- 
age Tanks, and 1st Incl by Engr, PBS, 9 Jun 44 to Ltr, 
HQ, SOS NATOUSA, 8 May, same sub, 679.1 1, Oil 
Pipelines, MTOUSA files. 



174 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 




Engineer Officer Reads Pressure Gauges at pumping station, Foggia, Italy. 



charge its cargo until five days later. In 
the meantime engineers set up dispens- 
ing and refueling stations in the termi- 
nal area, and once the Empire Emerald 
discharged, Fifth Army and base sec- 
tion units were able to draw some of 
their fuel supply from the bulk instal- 
lations. The petroleum engineers did 
not limit their operations to providing 
facilities for ground force units. The 
696th company readied separate lines 
and storage tanks to receive 100-octane 
aviation fuel, as well as storage tanks, 
discharge lines, and fueling facilities for 
naval forces. 

The engineer work to make possible 
the discharge of POL and other sup- 
plies at Naples became increasingly 
urgent as October advanced. By the end 



of the first week in October advance 
elements of Fifth Army were at the 
Volturno River, and a week later the 
crossings began. 

The Volturno Crossings 

To the engineers involved in getting 
the troops across the river, where all 
bridges were down, the most impor- 
tant feature of the Volturno was that it 
was shallow. From 150 to 220 feet wide, 
the river was normally only 3 to 5 feet 
deep; even after the rains of early Octo- 
ber began, spots existed on the VI 
Corps front where men could wade 
across and tanks could ford. The VI 
Corps crossings were to be made by the 
3d and 34th Divisions abreast between 



FROM SALERNO TO THE VOLTURNO 



175 



Triflisco (the boundary with British 10 
Corps on the west) and Amorosi, where 
the Volturno, flowing down from the 
northwest, joins the Calore and turns 
west toward the sea. The corps' 45th 
Division was east of Amorosi in a sector 
adjoining British Eighth Army and 
would not be involved in the Volturno 
crossings. 

By 6 October the 3d Division was at 
the river, but for days rains and stiffen- 
ing German resistance made it impossi- 
ble to bring up the 34th Division, as 
well as 10 Corps, which was to cross 
simultaneously with VI Corps. Flooded 
swamplands and enemy demolitions 
held the British back; and in the path 
of the 34th Division the fields were so 
deep in mud that cross-country move- 
ment was impossible. Punishing mili- 
tary traffic deepened the mud on the 
few roads and continually ground down 
and destroyed surfaces already cratered 
from heavy shelling. Enormous quanti- 
ties of gravel and rock had to be used, 
even timber for corduroy cut from the 
banks of the Volturno. 3 

The 3d Division made good use of 
the week's delay. Reconnoitering the 
banks, patrols found wheel tracks where 
the Germans had crossed. At night 
patrols waded or swam the Volturno 
and marked fording spots. The troops 
were to cross in assault boats or wade, 
in either case holding on to guide ropes 
anchored to trees on the opposite bank. 
Heavy weapons were to be carried in 
assault boats. The 3d Division's 10th 
Engineer Combat Battalion rounded up 
five miles of guide rope and found 
some life jackets in a Naples warehouse. 
Some assault boats had to be impro- 



33 Fifth Army History, vol. II, 7 Oct- 15 Nov 43, pp. 
15-16, 49. 



vised. Naval officers in Naples provided 
some life rafts; other rafts were manu- 
factured and floated by oil or water 
drums; and rubber pontons from tread- 
way bridges came in handy. 

At the place where waterproofed 
tanks were to ford, the engineers built 
a road to the riverbank. Bridges would 
be required for vehicles unable to ford. 
A railway yard in the neighborhood 
yielded material for a prefabricated 
cableway and some narrow-gauge rail- 
road track which, overlaid with Som- 
merfeld matting and supported by 
floats, made a usable bridge for jeeps. 34 

Waiting on the mountain heights 
beyond the now racing, swollen Vol- 
turno, the Germans were prepared to 
repel the crossings. They had emplaced 
heavy artillery, laid mines, dug gun pits, 
and sighted machine guns to cover the 
riverbanks with interlocking fields of 
fire. They killed many men probing for 
crossing sites, but still did not know 
where the attack would come. General 
Truscott misled them into thinking the 
main crossing would be made on the 
American left at Triflisco Gap, then 
crossed the river in the center, spear- 
heading the advance with the 7 th In- 
fantry of his 3d Division. 

At 0200 on 13 October, after a heavy 
preliminary bombardment of German 
positions, troops of the 7th Infantry 
entered the river under a smoke screen, 
one battalion in rafts and assault boats, 



' 4 Taggart, History of the Third Infantry Division in 
WorldWarll, pp. 88-89; Nathan William White, War 
Department, Military Intel Div, From Fedala to Berch- 
tesgaden, (Brockton, Mass.: Keystone Print, Inc., 1947), 
pp. 51—52. Details of the crossings are taken from 
these two sources as well as Blumenson, Salerno to 
Cassino, pp. 196—206; and War Department, Military 
Intel Div, From the Volturno to the Winter Line (6 Octo- 
ber— 15 November 1943), American Forces in Action 
Series (Washington, 1944), pp. 27—54. 



176 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



two battalions wading the icy waters and 
holding their rifles above their heads. 
The men in the boats had the worst of 
it; many of the trees anchoring the 
guide ropes tore away from sodden 
banks; rafts broke up in the swift cur- 
rent; and the rubber boats tended to 
drift downstream and were held back 
only with great difficulty by a party 
from the 39th Engineer Combat Regi- 
ment. Despite the struggle against the 
river, daylight found all the combat 
troops of the initial waves on the far 
bank picking their way through the 
minefields. 

By 0530 General Truscott had word 
that all of the 7th Infantry was over the 
river and that two battalions of the 15th 
Infantry had crossed in the same man- 
ner and with- much the same problems. 
On the right of the 3d Division two bat- 
talions of the 34th Division had crossed 
the Voltumo with relative ease. 

Truscott's main worry was a delay in 
getting the tanks across. At the ford in 
the 7th Infantry sector, bulldozer oper- 
ators at first light had begun trying to 
break down the riverbank so the tanks 
could get to the water's edge without 
tipping over; but the bulldozers were 
unarmored, and enemy shelling caused 
so many casualties among the opera- 
tors that the work stopped. Around 
1000, Truscott learned from the com- 
manding officer of the 7th Infantry, 
Col. Harry B. Sherman, that German 
tanks were advancing toward the rifle- 
men on the far bank and that the enemy 
was probably about to launch a coun- 
terattack. 

Leaving Sherman's command post, 
Truscott encountered a platoon of engi- 
neers from Company A of the 111th 
Engineer Combat Battalion on their 
way to the site where work was starting 



on the division bridge. "In a few brief 
words," Truscott later recalled, "I 
painted for them the urgent need for 
courageous engineers who could level 
off the river bank even under fire so 
that tanks could cross and prevent our 
infantry battalions being overrun by the 
enemy. Their response was immediate 
and inspiring. I left them double-timing 
toward the river half a mile away to 
level off the bank with picks and 
shovels — which they did, while tanks 
and tank destroyers neutralized enemy 
fire from the opposite bank." 35 By 1240 
fifteen tanks and three tank destroyers 
had reached the opposite bank and 
were moving to the aid of the riflemen. 

By that time the jeep bridge in the 
7th Infantry area, being built by Com- 
pany A of the 10th Engineer Combat 
Battalion, was almost finished. But work 
the battalion's Company B was doing on 
the division bridge in the 15th Infan- 
try area to the east had been stopped 
by German artillery fire, which caused 
casualties among the engineers, punc- 
tured pontons, and damaged trucks. 
General Truscott hurried to the site and 
told the engineers they would have to 
disregard the shelling and finish the 
bridge. The company "returned to work 
as nonchalandy as though on some engi- 
neer demonstration" and completed the 
bridge that afternoon, although shell- 
ing continued to cause casualties. 36 

Sites for the division bridge and for 
a thirty-ton bridge to carry tanks, corps 
artillery, and heavy engineer equip- 
ment had been selected entirely from 
aerial photographs. Later, ground re- 



15 Truscott, Command Missions, pp. 27 1 —72. 
36 Ibid., p. 43; War Dept, Mil Intel Div, From the 
Voltumo to the Winter Line, pp. 3 1 , 40. 



FROM SALERNO TO THE VOLTURNO 



177 



connaissance justified this method of 
selection. 37 

The thirty-ton corps bridge went in 
near Capua about 500 yards from a 
blown bridge that had carried High- 
way 87 across the river at Triflisco. 
Aware that this site was the only one 
suitable for a heavy bridge, the Ger- 
mans stubbornly dominated the heights 
all through the day on 1 3 October, and 
not until the next day could work begin. 
To build the 270-foot-long treadway VI 
Corps had to call on the 16th Armored 
Engineer Battalion, which had tread- 
way equipment and experienced men. 
Engineers from the 10th Engineer 
Combat Battalion and the 39th Engi- 
neer Combat Regiment prepared the 
approaches across muddy fields con- 
necting the bridge with Highway 87. 
Construction began under a blanket of 
smoke which seemed to draw artillery 
fire. In spite of casualties and damaged 
pontons the engineers Finished the 
treadway early in the afternoon, in only 
six hours. Later that same afternoon 
General Clark changed the boundary 
between VI Corps and British 10-Corps, 
giving the British responsibility for the 
3d Division's objective on the left flank. 
This change gave the bridge to the 
British. In its first five days the tread- 
way carried 7,200 vehicles across the 
Volturno. 38 

In the 34th Division's zone to the east, 
south of Caiazzo, the task of building a 
division bridge over the Volturno fell 
to Company A of VI Corps' 36th Engi- 
neer. Combat Regiment, the regiment 



Chf Engr, 15th Army Gp, Notes on EngrOpnsin 
Italy, no. 8, 1 Feb 44, app. A-l, p. 4; Hist 1554th 
Engr Heavy Ponton Bn, 1 Jan 45—8 May 45. 

Truscott, Command Missions, pp. 268, 274; Engineer 
History, Mediterranean, p. 33. 



that had helped repel German counter- 
attacks after the Salerno landing and 
had contributed its Company H to the 
Rangers at Amalfi. Company H had 
marched into Naples with the Rangers 
to clear mines and booby traps. At the 
Italian barracks where the company was 
billeted, a German delayed-action demo- 
lition charge exploded on 10 October, 
killing twenty-three men and wound- 
ing thirteen. 

Misfortune also dogged the efforts 
of Company A to build the division 
bridge over the Volturno at Annunziata. 
According to plan, infantrymen on the 
far bank were to have taken a first 
phase line, including heights where 
German artillery was emplaced, before 
the engineers moved forward to the 
river from their assembly area three 
miles to the rear. On orders, the engi- 
neer convoy got under way at 0700 on 
13 October, with trucks carrying floats 
already inflated to save time. But the 
high ground had not yet been taken, 
and no one had informed the engi- 
neers. 

At Annunziata an enemy barrage 
began, and by the time the first three 
floats were launched the German fire 
had become so accurate that all were 
destroyed. During the day engineer cas- 
ualties amounted to 3 men killed, 8 
wounded, and 2 missing. Not until well 
after dark did the infantrymen take the 
first phase line. By that time the engi- 
neers had found another site upstream. 
Working under a smoke screen that (as 
at Triflisco) attracted enemy fire, they 
were able to finish the bridge by mid- 
morning on 14 October. That after- 
noon a company of the 16th Armored 



;w Engineer History, Mediterranean, p. 40. 



178 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 




Engineer Battalion began building near 
Caiazzo a 255-foot, 30-ton treadway 
bridge and finished it before midnight. 
Next morning, although German planes 
made several passes at it, the bridge 
was carrying the 34th Division's heavy 
vehicles over the Volturno. 40 

From the time troops crossed the 
lower Volturno at Capua and Caiazzo 
to the time they crossed the upper 
Volturno a few weeks later at Venafro 
and Colli, the engineers were so short 
of bridging material that they had tc 



40 Hist 36th Engr C Rgt, 1 Jun 41 -23 Jun 44, includ- 
ing Ltr, 1st Lt Thomas F. Farrell, Jr., to CO, 36th 
Engr C Rgt, 28 Oct 43, sub: Volturno River Crossing; 
Hist 109th Engr C Bn, 10 Feb 41-8 May 45, app. 1, 
pt. Ill; Engineer History, Mediterranean, pp. 32, 33, 40; 
Gardes comments in Ltr, 5 Nov 59. 



resort to low-level bridges, sometimes 
constructed of any material they could 
scrounge from the countryside. They 
speedily slapped temporary bridges 
(largely treadways) across the river. 
Flash floods in November and Decem- 
ber washed them out. On one occasion 
when the Volturno rose eighteen feet 
in ten hours, all the bridges but one 
were out for some time. Alternate 
routes — long, difficult, and circuitous — 
slowed supplies and added to traffic 
congestion. The one bridge sturdy 
enough to resist the torrent was a semi- 
permanent structure the 343d Engineer 
General Service Regiment built at 
Capua between 16 October and 9 
November. This pileJaridge was for six 
months thereafter a major link in the 



FROM SALERNO TO THE VOLTURNO 



179 



Fifth Army lifeline. It was 32 feet high, 
some 370 feet long, and was classified 
as a two-way Class 40, one-way Class 70 
bridge. In the first twenty-four hours 
after the bridge opened to traffic, 
10,000 vehicles crossed; during the 
campaign, a million. 41 

In spite of this experience at the 
Volturno the engineers built a number 
of temporary bridges too low to with- 
stand the swift currents of Italian 
streams and lost several more to flash 
floods. Any floating bridge was built at 
the existing level of the river or stream. 
As the rivers rose or fell, floating or 
fixed spans had to be added or re- 
moved. When Italian streams rose rap- 
idly the engineers could not always 
extend the bridge fast enough to save 
it. The height of the bridge also de- 
pended upon the availability of con- 
struction materials, hard to come by in 
Italy. As the supply of Baileys im- 



41 Gardes comments in Ltr, 5 Nov 59; Engineer 
History, Mediterranean, p. 51. 



proved, longer and higher structures 
were built 

During the early part of November 
the enemy reinforced his units in front 
of the Fifth Army in an attempt to 
establish and hold the "Winter Line," 
increasing their strength from three to 
five divisions. By 15 November the Brit- 
ish 10 Corps was stopped on a front 
approximately sixteen miles from the 
sea to Caspoli, while VI Corps was 
stalled on a front extending through 
the Mignano Gap past Venafro and 
north to the Eighth Army's left wing 
near Castel San Vincenzo. General Alex- 
ander called a halt and General Clark 
set about regrouping Fifth Army. Allow- 
ing the 34th and 45 th Divisions time to 
rest and refit, he sent the 36th Division 
into the line and withdrew the 3d Divi- 
sion, which, slated for Anzio, came to 
the end (as General Truscott remarked) 
of "fifty-nine days of mountains and 
mud." 4 * 

42 Comments, Brig Gen D. O. Elliott, in Ltr to Dr. 
Jesse A. Remington, 18 Mar 60. 

43 Truscott, Command Missions, p. 285. 



CHAPTER IX 

The Winter Line and the 
Anzio Beachhead 



The region of Fifth Army operations 
during the winter of 1943—44 was 
admirably suited for stubborn defense. 
Its topography included the narrow val- 
leys of rivers rising in the Apennines 
and emptying into the Tyrrhenian Sea, 
irregular mountain and hill systems, 
and a narrow coastal plain. The divide 
between the Volturno-Calore and the 
Garigliano-Rapido valleys consisted of 
mountains extending from the crest of 
the Apennines southward about forty 
miles, averaging some 3,000 feet above 
sea level and traversed by few roads or 
trails. The slopes rising from the river 
valleys were often precipitous and for- 
ested, and all the rivers were swollen 
by winter rains and melting snow. In 
these mountains and valleys north and 
west of the Volturno, German delaying 
tactics slowed and finally halted Fifth 
Army's progress. The engineers had to 
fight enemy mines and demolitions as 
well as mountains and flooded streams. 

Before the Allies launched an attack 
on the Winter Line on 1 December 
1943, the U.S. II Corps took its place 
in the Fifth Army center near Mignano. 
The British 10 Corps and U.S. VI Corps 
occupied the left and right flanks, re- 
spectively. Early in January VI Corps 
withdrew from the Fifth Army front to 
prepare for the Anzio operation, and 
the French Expeditionary Corps (FEC), 
initially consisting of two divisions from 



North Africa, took its place. A number 
of Italian units, including engineers, 
also joined Fifth Army. But these addi- 
tions did not assure rapid progress. 
The army pushed slowly and painfully 
through the mountains until it came to 
a halt in mid-January at the enemy's 
next prepared defenses, the Gustav 
Line, which followed the courses of the 
Rapido and Garigliano Rivers for most 
of its length. Opposing Fifth Army and 
the British Eighth Army was the Ger- 
man Tenth Army. 1 

In January Fifth Army attacked on 
two fronts. VI Corps' surprise flank 
attack in the Anzio landing (SHINGLE) 
of 22 January penetrated inland an aver- 
age of ten miles, but then the German 
Fourteenth Army contained the beach- 
head, and for the remainder of the win- 
ter VI Corps was on the defensive. In 
the mountains to the south Fifth Army 
could gain little ground. When an at- 
tack began on 17 January, II Corps held 
the Fifth Army center along the Rapido 
and tried repeatedly to smash through 
the Gustav Line. By the thirty-first II 
Corps had penetrated some German 
lines but failed to capture Cassino, key 
to enemy defenses. The opening of the 
second front at Anzio had reduced the 



1 For terrain and tactical details, see Blumenson, 
Salerno to Cassino, chs. XI II— XV, and Fifth Army History, 
vol. II, pp. 2-3; vol. Ill, p. 2 and an. 5; vol. IV, pp. 2, 
4, 187-88. 



THE WINTER LINE AND THE ANZIO BEACHHEAD 



181 



length of the inland front Fifth Army 
could hold; hence, in February three 
divisions moved from Eighth Army to 
take over the Cassino-Rapido front 
while Fifth Army units concentrated in 
the southern half of the line, along the 
Garigliano. Despite heavy casualties, the 
gains in the winter campaign were neg- 
ligible, and a stalemate existed until the 
offensive resumed in the spring. 

Minefields in the Mountains 

Approaching the Volturno, the Allies 
had run into increasingly dense and sys- 
tematic minefields which included un- 
familiar varieties of mines and booby 
traps. The German mine arsenal in 
Italy contained the "S" (or "Bouncing 
Betty") and Teller plus many new types 
including the Schu and the Stock, mines 
with detonations delayed up to twenty- 
one days, and mines with improvised 
charges. Nonmetallic materials such as 
wood and concrete in many of the 
newer mines made detection more dif- 
ficult and more dangerous. 

Allied troops dreaded the Schu mine 
especially. Approximately 6-by-4-by-2 
inches, this mine consisted of a 1/2- to 
2-pound block of explosive and a sim- 
ple detonating device enclosed in light- 
weight pressed board or impregnated 
plywood. It could be carried by any foot 
soldier and planted easily in great num- 
bers; it was most effective placed flush 
with the ground and covered with a 
light layer of dirt, grass, and leaves. The 
Schu did not kill, but as little as five 
pounds of pressure would set it off to 
shatter foot, ankle, and shin bones. 

At the Volturno the enemy had re- 
covered from the confusion of retreat, 
and to the end of the Italian campaign 
each successive German fortified line 
had its elaborate mine defenses. The 



Germans frequently sowed mines with- 
out pattern and used many confusing 
methods. Distances, depths, and types 
varied. A mine might be planted above 
another of the same or different type 
in case a mine-lifting party cleared only 
the top layer. 

The scale of antipersonnel mining 
increased as the campaign progressed. 
Booby traps were planted in bunches 
of grapes, in fruit and olive trees, in 
haystacks, at roadblocks, among felled 
trees, along hedges and walls, in ra- 
vines, valleys, hillsides, and terraces, 
along the beds and banks of streams, in 
tire or cart tracks along any likely ave- 
nue of approach, in possible bivouac 
areas, in buildings that troops might be 
expected to enter, and in shell or bomb 
craters where soldiers might take ref- 
uge. The Germans placed mines in bal- 
last under railroad tracks, in tunnels, 
at fords, on bridges, on road shoulders, 
in pits, in repaired pot holes, and in 
debris. Field glasses, Luger pistols, wal- 
lets, and pencils were booby-trapped, 
as were chocolate bars, soap, windows, 
doors, furniture, toilets, demolished 
German equipment, even bodies of 
Allied and German civilians and sol- 
diers. 2 

In areas sown with S-mines bulldozer 
operators wore body armor, and each 
combat battalion had four "flak" suits. 
More than fifty bulldozers struck mines 
during the campaign. In many cases 
the operators were thrown from their 
seats, but none was killed. Some had 
broken legs, but had they been in cabs 
with roofs many would have had their 
necks broken or skulls fractured. 3 

2 Engineer History, Mediterranean, pp. 34, 36, 42; Bow- 
man notes, 31 Mar 44, Fifth Army Engr files. 

3 Hist 10th EngrC Bn, 1944; Hist 3 13th Engr C Bn, 
1944-45; Interv, Col John D. Cole, Jr., CO, 310th 
Engr C Bn, 1959. 



182 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



Although detecting and clearing 
mines was not exclusively an engineer 
function, the engineers were primarily 
responsible. But they were not ade- 
quately trained. As late as September 
1944 engineers in the field complained 
that no organization or procedure had 
been established for collecting enemy 
mines for training. 4 

Infantrymen retained the dread of 
mines that had been so marked in North 
Africa. To ease that dread and to pass 
on proper procedures for lifting mines, 
the engineers emphasized that mines 
were one of the normal risks of war; 
only one man should deal with a mine; 
skilled help should be called in when 
needed; ground should be checked 
carefully in a mined area; all roads and 
shoulders should be cleared and accu- 
rate records made of such work, with 
roads and lanes not cleared being 
blocked off and so reported; and large 
minefields should not be cleared except 
on direct orders. 5 

The engineers often found that in- 
fantrymen did not comprehend the 
time required to check an area. Check- 
ing and clearing mines were slow and 
careful processes, requiring many men 
and involving great risks even when 
there was no enemy fire. For example, 
the 10th Engineer Combat Battalion in 
the Formia-Gaeta area, north of Naples, 
suffered fifty-seven casualties, includ- 
ing fifteen deaths, in clearing 20,000 
mines of all types during a period of 
sixteen days. Often a large area con- 
tained only a few mines, but the num- 
ber found bore little relation to the time 
that had to be spent checking and clear- 
ing. Furthermore, much of the work 



4 AGF Bd Rpt, Lessons Learned in the Battle from 
Garigliano to North of Rome, 21 Sep 44. 

5 Fifth Army History, vol. VIII, p. 91. 



had to be done under artillery, machine 
gun, and mortar fire. Ordinarily the 
infantry attacked with engineers in sup- 
port to clear mine paths, and engineer 
casualties were inevitable. 6 

New problems in mine detection a- 
rose during the Italian campaign. With 
the increasing number of nonmetallic 
enemy mines, the SCR— 625 detector 
became less dependable and the prod 
more important. Italian soil contained 
heavy mineral deposits and large con- 
centrations of artifacts buried over the 
ages. 7 A detector valuable in one spot 
might be useless a mile away, where 
the metallic content of the soil itself pro- 
duced in the instrument a hum indistin- 
guishable from that caused by mines. 
Shell fragments and other scraps of 
metal scattered in many areas caused 
the same confusion. 

The wooden Schu mine was difficult 
for the SCR— 625 to spot. Since the fuse 
was the only metal in the mine, the 
detector had to be carefully tuned and 
the operator particularly alert. The 
prod was a surer instrument than the 
detector in this work, but it had to be 
held carefully at a thirty-degree angle 
to avoid activating the mine. The Schu 
charges were too small to damage bull- 
dozers seriously, but ordinarily the Ger- 
mans placed these mines in areas inac- 
cessible to bulldozers. However, Schu 
mines in open fields or along paths 
were often interspersed with S-mines, 
which could be costly to bulldozers and 
operators. One solution was to send 
sheep or goats into the minefield to hit 
trip wires and detonate the mines. 8 

6 Hist 126th Engr C Bn, 1944-45; Hist 10th Engr 
C Bn, 1944. 

7 Comments, Warren E. Graban, geologist, Water- 
ways Experimental Station, Vicksburg, Miss., 30 Apr 
59. 

8 36th Div Opns Rpt, Jan 44, an. 14; Hist 111th 
Engr C Bn. 



THE WINTER LINE AND THE ANZIO BEACHHEAD 



183 



The fact that the SCR— 625s were not 
waterproof continued to limit their 
usefulness. They had difficulty finding 
mines buried in snow, and any lengthy 
rain usually rendered them useless. 
However, covering the detector with a 
gas cape protected it somewhat against 
rain and snow. The 10th Engineer 
Combat Battalion (3d Division) had as 
many as ninety detectors on hand at 
one time, but at times most were unser- 
viceable. Its use was limited near the 
front, because the enemy often could 
hear the detector's hum, especially at 
night when much of the work was done 
and when the front lines were compara- 
tively quiet. 9 

The engineers tried out new types of 
detectors at various times. The Fifth 
Army received the AN/PRS- 1 (Dinah) 
detector in August 1944. It was less sen- 
sitive than the SCR— 625 and in a seven- 
day test proved not worthwhile. A ve- 
hicular detector, the AN/VRS-1, 
mounted in a jeep, was also tested and 
rejected as undependable. 

Of numerous other countermine de- 
vices and procedures tried, a few proved 
useful. The best of these were prima- 
cord ropes and cables. The 48th Engi- 
neer Combat Battalion developed a sim- 
ple device for clearing antipersonnel 
mines — a rifle grenade that propelled 
a length of primacord across a mine- 
field. The exploded primacord left a 
well-defined path about eighteen inches 
wide, cutting nearly all taut trip wires 
and sometimes detonating Schu mines. 
In all cases the engineers cleared the 
ground of any growth or underbrush 
to reveal mines or trip wires. 

On the Cisterna front, fifteen miles 
northeast of Anzio, the 16th Armored 



9 Hist 120th Engr C Bn, 3 1 May-Nov 43; Hist 10th 
Engr C Bn, 1944. 



Engineer Battalion used six Snakes to 
advantage when the Allies broke out of 
their perimeter. Segments of explosive- 
filled pipe that could be assembled into 
lengths up to 400 feet, the Snakes threw 
the enemy into momentary panic and 
permitted Combat Command A (CCA), 
1st Armored Division to advance; Com- 
bat Command B, which did not use the 
devices lost a number of tanks in its 
breakout. In practice, the Snakes were 
effective only over flat, heavily mined 
ground. They were susceptible to rain 
and mud, slow to build, difficult to 
transport and vulnerable to artillery fire 
and mine detonations. 10 

Other devices and methods for find- 
ing and removing mines in Italy in- 
cluded aerial detection — especially val- 
uable along the Garigliano River and 
at Anzio— D — 7 bulldozers with rollers, 
bazooka shells, bangalore torpedoes, 
and grappling hooks that activated anti- 
personnel mine trip wires. 1 1 

Bridge Building and Road Work 

In the winter campaign, the steel 
treadway and the Bailey (fixed and 
floating) were the tactical bridges the 
engineers used most, and the Bailey 
proved the more valuable. In the opin- 
ion of the Fifth Army engineer, it was 
"the most useful all-purpose fixed bridge 
in existence." Its capacity and length 
could be increased speedily by adding 
trusses and piers. It could be used 
where other bridges could not, particu- 
larly over mountain streams where flash 
floods quickly washed out other tempo- 
rary bridges. There were never enough 



10 Hist 48th Engr C Bn, 1944-45; Hist 16th Armd 
Engr Bn, May 44. 

" Hist 337th Engr C Bn; Hist 1 1 1th Engr C Bn, an. 
14 to II Corps Rpt, Rapido Crossing, Jan— Feb 44. 



184 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



Baileys. An early attempt to supplement 
the British supply with Baileys manu- 
factured in America failed. The engi- 
neering gauges sent from England to 
American factories were improperly 
calibrated, and the sections that came 
to Italy from the United States were 
incompatible with the British-manufac- 
tured parts in use; bridges assembled 
from American parts would not slide 
as well as the British bridges. Upon dis- 
covering the discrepancies, General 
Bowman outlawed the American bridge 
sets in the Fifth Army area. 12 Tread- 
ways, both floating and trestle, were 
almost as well suited to Italian condi- 
tions as Baileys, but the constant short- 
age of Brockway trucks needed to haul 
them limited their usefulness. The tread- 
ways were too narrow to accommodate 
large equipment carriers such as tank 
transporters and heavy tanks. 13 

The engineers of Fifth Army erected 
many timber bridges, usually as replace- 
ments for Baileys or treadways. The 
timber structures could carry loads of 
over seventy tons. Made not to stan- 
dard dimensions but to the needs of 
the moment, they consisted ordinarily 
of a series of steel or timber stringer 
spans with piers of single or double pile 
bents. The acquisition of the Ilva Steel 
Works at Bagnoli, after Naples fell, 
increased the use of steel stringers. 
Timber floor beams or steel channels 
rested on the stringers and supported 
wood decking of two layers, the upper 
laid diagonally to decrease wear. From 
the Ilva steel mill also came a light, steel- 
riveted lattice-type girder, suitable for 



12 Coll, Keith, and Rosenthal. The Corps of Engineers: 
Troops and Equipmen t pp. 54911 55 1| 

ls Fifth Army History, Mediterranean, app. J; Hist 
1108th Engr C Gp, 1944-45; Hist 317th Engr C Bn, 
Oct- Dec 44. 



semipermanent bridges, which became 
standard equipment. 4 

When Fifth Army engineers had to 
build abutments, they usually spiked 
logs together to make hollow cribs and 
then filled the cribs with stone. They 
had learned through experience that a 
dirt-fill abutment that extended into the 
channel restricted normal stream flow, 
which, in turn, scoured the abutment. 
Abutments needed to be well cribbed, 
and timber was the best expedient. 

During the winter campaign the engi- 
neers devised new methods and new 
uses for equipment in bridge building. 
The 16th Armored Engineer Battalion 
claimed credit for first putting cranes 
on the fronts of tanks or tank-recovery 
vehicles to get various types of treadway 
bridges across small streams or dry 
creek beds; the cranes enabled engi- 
neers to install bridges under heavy 
enemy fire. When a treadway across the 
Volturno at Dragoni almost washed 
away in November 1943, a company of 
the 36th Engineer Combat Regiment 
anchored it with half-track winches. On 
the night of 15 November the 48th 
Engineer Combat Battalion used the 
winches of Brockway trucks as hold- 
fasts to save another bridge at Dragoni. 
Engineers saved time by building Bai- 
leys with raised ramps on each end to 
put the bridge roadway two to three 
feet above the normal elevation. They 
could then build a more permanent 
bridge directly under the Bailey with- 
out closing the bridge to traffic and 
could quickly lay the flooring and wear- 
ing surface of the new bridge after they 
removed the Bailey. 15 

14 Hist 175th Engr GS Rgt, Feb 42-Oct 45; AGF 
Bd Rpt, NATOUSA, Second Orientation Conf at HQ, 
Fifth Army, 15 Nov 43. 

15 Engineer Hktory, Mediterranean, p. 4 1 ; Comments, 
Col K. S. Anderson in Ltr, 8 Jun 59. 



THE WINTER LINE AND THE ANZIO BEACHHEAD 



185 



Bridge companies were in short sup- 
ply throughout the Italian campaign, 
and for a time the treadway company 
of the 16th Armored Engineer Battal- 
ion was the only bridge company in Fifth 
Army. The companies were needed not 
only to construct, maintain, and dis- 
mantle bridges but also to carry bridge 
components. The treadway company of 
the 1 6th served as a bridge train from 
the first but could not meet the de- 
mand. As a stop-gap measure two com- 
panies of the 175 th Engineer General 
Service Regiment were equipped with 
enough trucks (2 1/2-ton and Brock- 
way) to form bridge trains, and later 
two more bridge train companies were 
organized from the disbanded bridge 
train of the 16th Armored Engineer 
Battalion. In addition, Fifth Army from 
time to time employed bridge compa- 
nies of 10 Corps for bridge trains. Ele- 
ments of the 1554th Engineer Heavy 
Ponton Battalion and Companies A and 
C of the 387th Engineer Battalion (Sep- 
arate) also served as bridge train units. 
The main problem all units converting 
to bridge trains faced was to find ex- 
perienced, reliable drivers for their 
trucks. 

Such was not the case for the 85th 
Engineer Heavy Ponton Battalion, 
which could unload its ponton equip- 
ment and, by carefully reloading, han- 
dle Bailey bridge components. One 
company of the 85th could carry two 
standard Baileys, and the ponton trail- 
ers also hauled piling and steel beams 
to engineer units replacing temporary 
bridging. One problem remained — the 
large, ungainly trailers could not tra- 
verse many Italian roads. 

Since the speed with which wrecked 
bridges were rebuilt or replaced often 
determined the Fifth Army's rate of 



advance, much of the bridge equipment 
had to be kept on wheels. Some equip- 
ment, such as Brockway trucks, was 
always in short supply. In the latter part 
of October 1943 the 85th Engineer 
Heavy Ponton Battalion established a 
bridge depot near Triflisco, operating 
directly under the Fifth Army engineer 
and sending bridging to the corps on 
bridge trains. It was a tactical depot, 
with stocks kept to a minimum for quick 
movement. The depot stocked fixed 
and floating Baileys, steel tre-adways, 
infantry support and heavy ponton 
bridges, and other stream-crossing 
equipment. Tactical Bailey and tread- 
way bridges replaced with fixed brid- 
ges were returned to the army bridge 
depot, where they were reconditioned 
and put back in stock. 16 

In reconnoitering for bridge sites, an 
important engineer function, experi- 
enced photo interpreters, studying aer- 
ial photographs of the front lines, were 
able to save much time. During the 
stalemate before Cassino, Lt. Col. John 
G. Todd, chief of the Mapping and 
Intelligence Section; Col. Harry O. 
Paxson, deputy Fifth Army engineer; 
and Capt. A. Colvocoresses worked out 
a plan to use aerial photos for engineer 
reconnaissance. One officer and one 
enlisted man specially trained in photo 
interpretation remained at the airfield 
where the photos were processed, and 
they could obtain copies of all aerial 
photos taken in front of the American 
lines. Those covering the front to a 
depth of ten miles went forward imme- 
diately to the Engineer Section, Fifth 
Army, and there Captain Colvocoresses 
recorded on a map everything that 
might help or hinder Fifth Army's ad- 



Hist 85th Engr Heavy Ponton Bn, Dec 44. 



186 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



vance: locations, characteristics, and 
dimensions of all bridges; possible bridge 
or crossing sites; places along roads 
where enemy demolitions could cause 
serious delays; locations of enemy 
dumps; and marshy ground that could 
prohibit tanks. This information Col- 
vocoresses sent to the army G— 3 and 
the army engineer's operations and 
supply sections. Meanwhile, the officer 
and the enlisted man at the airfield did 
the same type of work for the area 
beyond the ten miles in front of the 
lines, though in much less detail. As 
another result of the photo-interpreta- 
tion process, Colonel Paxson repre- 
sented the Fifth Army engineer on the 
target selection board for heavy artil- 
lery. 

Aerial photographs helped planners 
to estimate the material, equipment, 
and troops needed for bridge work. 
Information on blown bridges went 
back to the engineer supply section at 
army headquarters and forward to the 
frontline troops, who could prepare for 
necessary repairs. Engineers could then 
have the bridging on hand when an 
attack went forward. Aerial photo- 
graphs were especially important where 
enemy fire forestalled close ground 
reconnaissance. 

Building bridges under fire was diffi- 
cult at best — sometimes impossible. But 
engineers did build bridges under with- 
ering fire. In December 1943 Company 
H, 36th Engineer Combat Regiment, 
put a Bailey across a tributary of the 
Volturno, a few miles to the west of 
Colli al Volturno, and in February 1944 
the 109th Engineer Combat Battalion 
bridged the Rapido in two hours. 

Some engineers built bridges at night 
to escape enemy fire. Insofar as possi- 
ble they put material together some- 



what to the rear and brought forward 
partially prefabricated bridges in the 
dark. Others, trusting to Allied air 
superiority, preferred to build bridges 
by daylight under the protection of 
counterbattery fire that aerial recon- 
naissance directed. Another protective 
device was a dummy bridge to draw 
fire away from the real site. 17 

Winds and floods caused havoc. On 
30 December a company of the 344th 
Engineer General Service Regiment was 
building a Bailey across the Volturno 
near Raviscanina. While the engineers 
were putting concrete caps on the stone 
piers of the demolished span, a high 
wall of water plunged down the river, 
quickly washing away concrete and 
equipment. On the thirty-first high 
winds and subfreezing temperatures 
ended all work for several days. The 
gale ripped down company tents and 
blew away, buried, or destroyed per- 
sonal equipment. 18 

During the winter campaign divi- 
sional engineers worked rapidly to clear 
rubble-clogged village streets, remove 
roadblocks and abatis, and fill cratered 
roadways to take one-way traffic. Some- 
times they built roads over demolitions 
instead of clearing them. On several 
occasions they used railbeds cleared of 
ties and rails as emergency roads. In 
December 1943 the 48th Engineer Com- 
bat Battalion built one such road at the 
Cassino front under artillery fire. The 
battalion suffered many casualties while 
extending the road for six miles from 
Mignano to the flank of Monte Lungo 
and on to a point 200 yards in advance 
of infantry outposts. 

17 Hist 334th Engr C Bn, 21 Sep-31 Oct 43; Hist 
109th Engr C Bn, 21 Scp-31 Oct 43. 

18 Hist 344th Engr GS Rgt, 1942-45. 

19 Hists, 344th Engr GS Rgt and 1 108th Engr C Gp, 
1944-45. 



THE WINTER LINE AND THE ANZIO BEACHHEAD 



187 



Corps engineers normally followed 
divisional engineers to widen one-lane 
roads and bypasses for a freer flow of 
traffic, finish clearing rubble, remove 
debris from road shoulders, eliminate 
one-way bottlenecks, check each side of 
the road for mines, post caution and 
directional signs, and open lateral roads. 
Fifth Army engineers finished filling 
craters and resurfaced and widened 
roads to take two-way traffic. 

The policy was for divisional engi- 
neers to concentrate on the immediate 
front; they could ask corps engineers 
to take over any other necessary work 
in the division area. Similarly, as corps 
engineers took over work in the divi- 
sional areas they could ask army engi- 
neers to take over work in the corps 
areas. These requests were never turned 
down, although there were some com- 
plaints of work unfinished in the army 
area. The system worked better than 
retaining specified boundaries and con- 
tinually shifting engineer units among 
division, corps, and army as the work 
load varied. 

Much road repair and construction — 
especially that undertaken by division 
and corps engineers — was done under 
heavy enemy artillery, mortar, and small- 
arms fire. At times, engineer troops 
had to slow or even stop work because 
of enemy fire or had to abandon one 
route for another. Such experiences 
gave rise to engineer complaints of lack 
of infantry support, and frequently the 
engineers provided their own protec- 
tion, especially for dozer operators. 
Avoiding enemy fire by working at 
night had serious drawbacks, especially 
in the mountains. Only the most skilled 
graders and dozer operators could feel 
their way in the dark. Also, the noise of 
the equipment often drew enemy fire, 



even through the smoke screens that 
provided protection. The engineers set 
smoke screens for themselves, with 
varying success, and on numerous occa- 
sions Chemical Warfare Service units 
furnished excellent screens. 

The engineers had to contend not 
only with the enemy but also with heavy 
snows, mountain streams that rains 
turned into raging torrents, water pour- 
ing into drainage ditches from innu- 
merable gullies and gorges, and tons of 
mud clogging ditches and covering 
road surfaces. At times, engineers 
worked waist deep in mud. Army vehi- 
cles hauled huge quantities from side 
roads and bivouacs. The only answer 
was "rock, plenty of rock." 20 

For proper drainage crushed rock or 
gravel, or both, had to cover the whole 
surface of a road, and the crown had to 
be maintained. When engineer units 
assumed responsibility for a new area 
one of the first things they did was to 
find a ready and reliable source of rock 
and gravel. In most parts of Italy sup- 
plies were plentiful. Rubble from dem- 
olished stone houses — even Carrara 
marble quarried from the mountain- 
sides^ — supplemented rock. 

Quarries sometimes operated day 
and night. In December 1943 a 235th 
Engineer Combat Battalion quarry on 
Highway 6 east of Cassino worked twen- 
ty-two hours a day, lit at night by giant 
torches "after the fashion of a Roman 
festival in Caesar's time," though "the 
torches attracted a not inconsiderable 
amount of attention from German 
planes and artillery." 21 The engineers 
dumped and roughly spread rock; then 
Italian laborers used sledges or small 



Engineer History, Mediterranean, p. 43. 
21 Ibid. 



188 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



portable rock crushers to break up the 
larger stones. 22 

Engineers drained water from the 
wide shoulders along secondary roads 
by digging ditches across the shoulders 
at intervals or by using various types of 
culverts. Steel pipe culverts of twelve- 
inch diameter worked effectively, and 
the engineers had little difficulty find- 
ing local pipe for them. Curved sheets 
of corrugated iron made excellent forms 
for masonry culverts. During the fight- 
ing at the Winter Line, Lt. Col. Frank 
J. Polich of the 235th Engineer Com- 
bat Battalion designed a prefabricated 
hexagonal culvert. Sixteen feet long 
with two-foot sides and steel reinforce- 
ments, it was intended for emergency 
jobs but proved so successful that Fifth 
Army adopted it as a standard engi- 
neer item. The culvert could be thrown 
into gaps in the road at the site of a 
blown bridge, over a bomb crater, or at 
assault stream crossings to make a pass- 
able one-way road. The culvert sus- 
tained the weight of 32-ton medium 
tanks without any earth covering yet 
could be loaded and transported com- 
paratively easily; it weighed two to three 
thousand pounds depending upon the 
kind of wood used in its construction. 
Other engineer units built similar cul- 
verts of varying lengths. 23 

Of the roads leading forward to the 
area of the Winter Line campaign, only 
three were First-class: Highways 7, 6, 
and 85. As a result, Fifth Army had to 
depend on unsurfaced secondary roads 
and on tracks and trails. While the 
engineers' main problem during this 
period was maintenance (the VI Corps 
engineer, for instance, reported that the 



Z2 Ltr, Col William P. Jones, Jr., 1 Jun 59. 
zs HQ, 34th Inf Div, Lessons Learned in Combat, 
1944. 



36th and 39th Engineer Combat Regi- 
ments devoted almost all their time in 
December to revetments and drainage 
control), they built numerous jeep and 
foot trails through the mountains to 
supplement the inadequate road sys- 
tem. 24 

A very large part of VI Corps' traffic 
passed through Venafro, a bottleneck 
through which an average of 4,000 
vehicles moved every day during De- 
cember 1943. To lighten the load on 
Highway 85 and a narrow road to Poz- 
zilli, the 120th Engineer Combat Bat- 
talion, 45th Division, built two addi- 
tional roads from Venafro to Pozzilli. 
The engineers eventually extended these 
roads beyond Pozzilli well into the moun- 
tains, where mules or men with pack- 
boards had to take over. 25 

Engineers in Combat 

In the midst of helping combat troops 
move over difficult terrain in winter 
weather, engineers sometimes fought as 
infantry during the drive on Rome. Per- 
haps the most spectacular instance was 
the commitment of II Corps' 48th Engi- 
neer Combat Battalion at Monte Por- 
chia during the first week of January 
1944. 

Although Monte Porchia was not a 
primary objective for II Corps, it was 
needed to protect 10 Corps' right flank 
in a projected operation to cross the 
Garigliano. A small elevation compared 
with the mountainous terrain generally 
typical of central Italy, Monte Por- 
chia's isolated position commanded low 
ground lying between the Monte Mag- 
giore— Camino hill mass to the south 



Fifth Army History, vol. Ill, p. 4. 

Hist 120th Engr C Bn, 31 May-Nov 43. 



THE WINTER LINE AND THE ANZIO BEACHHEAD 



189 




Engineer Rock Quarry Near Mignano 



and Monte Trocchio to the northwest. 
From this observation point the enemy 
could survey the Allied line along the 
Garigliano. The British 10 Corps held 
the Allied left, while the U.S. 34th Divi- 
sion was in the mountains to the right. 
In the center, astride the only two roads 
into Cassino, the U.S. 1st Armored Divi- 
sion had massed Task Force Allen and 
its attached units. Enemy observation 
posts on Monte Porchia were able to 
direct punishing fire on all Allied instal- 
lations in the valley. It was vitally impor- 
tant to take this hill, and at 1930 on 4 
January the attack began. 

The weather was cold, wet, and win- 
dy. The 6th Armored Infantry Regi- 
ment led off, but German mortar and 



artillery fire was so concentrated that 
by daylight the 2d Battalion of the 6th 
Armored was back at its starting point. 
More wind-driven snow fell on 5 Janu- 
ary as the 48th Engineer Combat Bat- 
talion was attached to Task Force Allen, 
placed in reserve, and told to be ready 
to go into the line. During 7— 9 January, 
in three days and two nights, when a 
gap developed on the left flank of the 
task force, Companies A, B, and C of 
the 48th went forward. They helped 
secure the flank and drive the enemy 
off. For its work in this action the 48th 
received a Presidential Unit Citation, 
as did the 235th Engineer Combat Bat- 
talion, which also took part in the en- 
gagement. Individual awards to men 



190 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



of the 48th included 3 Distinguished 
Service Crosses, 21 Silver Stars, and 2 
Bronze Stars. The highest award, the 
Congressional Medal of Honor, was 
awarded posthumously to Sgt. Joseph 
C. Specker, Company C, for his brav- 
ery on 7 January in wiping out an 
enemy machine-gun nest single hand- 
edly despite severe wounds. 2 

The 235th Battalion was to open and 
maintain axial supply routes for Task 
Force Allen. The work of the battalion, 
often under heavy fire, enabled armor 
to move forward in support of the 
infantry. The 235th also fought as in- 
fantry, twice driving the enemy from 
strongly fortified positions to clear 
routes for the armor. 27 

At Cassino: 20-29 January 1944 

In mid-January Fifth Army reached 
the enemy's Rapido-Garigliano defens- 
es. The removal of VI Corps from the 
Allied line left II Corps as the only U.S. 
Army corps on this front. For the assault 
against the Gustav Line, II Corps was 
in the center, opposite the Germans' 
strong position at Cassino. Plans for the 
attack called first for the 36th Division 
to cross the Rapido south of Cassino. 

The 36th began the operation late 
on 20 January. The enemy's defenses 
were formidable and his position very 
strong. Along that part of its course in 
the division's sector the Rapido was a 
narrow stream flowing swiftly between 
steep banks, in places no more than 
twenty-five feet wide and elsewhere 
about fifty. The Sant' Angelo bluff or 
promontory, from which the enemy 
could survey the immediate area, rose 



26 History of II Corpr, Hist 48th Engr C Bn, 7 Ap 
4S-Jun 44; Hist 1108th Engr C Gp, 1944-45. 
*^Hist 235th Engr C Bn, Jan-Dec 44. 



forty feet above the river's west bank, 
but there were no comparable vantage 
points east of the river. Between 20 and 
22 January the 36th Division made two 
attempts to establish a bridgehead but 
suffered a costly defeat. The 36th then 
went on the defensive while the 34th 
Division between 26 and 29 January 
pushed across the Rapido north of Cas- 
sino and made a slight but important 
breach in the Gustav Line. 28 

During these attacks engineers were 
to clear mines at crossing sites, build 
and maintain bridges and bridge ap- 
proaches, and find and maintain tank 
routes. They also were to maintain 
roads and clear mines in seized bridge- 
heads. The 36th Division's 143d Infan- 
try was to attack south of Sant' Angelo, 
and its 14 1st was to cross north of the 
bluff. The 111th Engineer Combat 
Battalion, reinforced by two companies 
of the 16th Armored Engineer Battal- 
ion, was to clear enemy mines before 
the crossings. During the night of 19 
January the 1st and 2d Battalions of 
the 19th Engineer Combat Regiment, 
a II Corps unit, were to spot footbridge 
equipment and assault boats for the 
attack. The 1st Battalion, during the 
night of 20 January, was to build an 
eight-ton infantry support bridge in the 
area of the 143d and the 2d Battalion a 
similar structure in the attack zone of 
the 141st. 29 

The Gustav Line was heavily mined, 
with box mines notably more numerous. 
At the Rapido the Fifth Army encoun- 
tered a mine belt a mile in length, 
chiefly of the S, Teller, and wooden 
box types. German patrols interrupted 
mine clearing, and they crossed the 



w Ftfth Army History, vol. IV, pp. 39-48, 57; Ltr, 
Jones, I Jun 59. 

29 II Corps Rapido Crossing, Jan— Feb 44. 



THE WINTER LINE AND THE ANZIO BEACHHEAD 



191 



river and emplaced more mines so that 
markers indicating the safe passage 
meant little. Poor reconnaissance re- 
sulted partly from the position of the 
infantry which was 500 yards from the 
river. When the 141st began to advance, 
the lanes were difficult or impossible to 
follow because of heavy fog or because 
much of the white tape had been de- 
stroyed, some by German fire. 30 

The enemy met the several attempted 
crossings with intense and continuous 
artillery, mortar, and machine-gun fire, 
which destroyed assault boats and frus- 
trated the engineers in their attempts 
to build floating footbridges. The engi- 
neers had no standard floating bridge 
equipment and had to improvise all 
footbridges over the Rapido. In the 
141st Infantry zone artillery fire tore 
to shreds several footbridges made from 
sections of catwalk placed over pneu- 
matic boats, while floating mines de- 
stroyed another. Most of Companies A 
and B of the 141st got across on one 
intact footbridge that the 19th Engi- 
neers had managed to put together from 
the remnants of others. This bridge, 
although almost totally submerged, re- 
mained usable for a time because the 
engineers strung four ropes across the 
Rapido to form a suspension cable that 
supported the punctured boats. 31 

Dense fog hampered the whole oper- 
ation, but the 1st Battalion, 19th En- 
gineers, was able to guide troops of the 
1st Battalion of the 143d Infantry 
through the minefields. By 0500 on 2 1 
January, the 19th Engineers had in- 
stalled two footbridges in the 143d's 
area south of Sant' Angelo, but one was 



30 Interv, Col J. O. Killian, CO, 19th Engr C Rgt, 
and Ltr, Jones, I Jun 59. 

31 Ltr, Jones, 1 Jun 59; Engineer History, Mediter- 
ranean, p. 39. 



soon destroyed and the other damaged. 
The infantry battalion nevertheless 
crossed in boats or over the bridges but 
suffered heavy casualties, and its rem- 
nants had to return to the east bank to 
escape annihilation. Fog confused troops 
of the 19th Engineers who led the boat 
group of the 3d Battalion of the 143d 
Infantry. The engineers and infantry 
stumbled into a minefield, where their 
rubber boats were destroyed. Enemy 
fire completed the disorganization of 
the infantry battalion and defeated its 
attempt to make a crossing. 

During the 36th Division's second 
attempt to break through the enemy 
line the 19th Engineers succeeded in 
installing several footbridges, but the 
16th Armored Engineer Battalion, in 
the face of artillery and mortar fire, 
could make no headway with the instal- 
lation of a Bailey. The action ended in 
defeat. 32 

Reviewing the failure to build the 
Rapido bridges as planned, Colonel 
Bowman pointed out that the near 
shore of the river was never entirely 
under Fifth Army control, so reconnais- 
sance, mine clearance, and approach 
preparation were incomplete. He con- 
cluded that the attempt to build and 
use a Bailey as an assault bridge was 
unjustified. Some engineer officers on 
the scene blamed a shortage in bridge 
equipment, bad timing, and one infan- 
try regiment's lack of training with the 
engineers supporting it. Others claimed 
that the terrible raking fire from well- 
placed artillery and small arms directly 
on the sites made bridge construction 
all but impossible. 

The success of the 34th Division's 
Rapido crossing north of Cassino de- 



Fifth Army History, vol. IV, p. 45: Killian interv. 



192 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



pended greatly on getting tanks over 
narrow muddy roads and then across 
the river. The crossing itself was less a 
problem than that to the south because 
terrain and other factors were more 
favorable. The Germans had diverted 
the Rapido and flooded the small valley; 
now the American engineers prepared 
the dry riverbed for a tank crossing. 
On the morning of 27 January, after 
artillery preparation, tanks of the 756th 
Tank Battalion led the attack. Some of 
them slipped off the flooded trail and 
others stuck in the mud, but a few got 
across the river. 33 

Engineers of the 1108th Engineer 
Combat Group and two companies of 
the 16th Armored Engineer Battalion 
started building a corduroy route south 
of the tank trail. On that day and the 
twenty-eighth the infantry was able to 
hold some ground west of the Rapido. 
Meanwhile, the engineers worked to 
improve the tank routes. The attack 
against enemy strongpoints resumed on 
the morning of the twenty-ninth. By 
that time the engineers had tank routes 
ready for the advance, and the infantry, 
aided by armor, captured two strong- 
points on 30 January. Next day the 
infantrymen took Cairo village, head- 
quarters of an enemy regiment. After 
the 34th Division had broken through 
the enemy's outpost line and occupied 
a hill mass north of Cassino, the 109th 
Engineer Combat Battalion improved 
a main supply route by constructing two 
one-way roads that led across the Rapido 
from San Pietro to Cairo. 34 

Anzio 

To the north, the landing at Anzio 



(SHINGLE) was under way. Planning and 
training were compressed into little 
more than two months. In mid-Novem- 
ber 1943 a planning group with three 
engineer representatives assembled at 
Fifth Army headquarters in Caserta. 
Here Colonel Bowman, having reviewed 
the findings of engineer aerial photo 
interpreters and having studied harbors 
from Gaeta to Civitavecchia, recom- 
mended Anzio for the projected land- 
ing of an Allied flanking force. Col. 
Harry O. Paxson, the Fifth Army Engi- 
neer Section's expert on evaluating 
topographic intelligence, also had a part 
in choosing Anzio. As General Eisen- 
hower's topographic intelligence offi- 
cer at AFHQ in 1942 he had learned 
from the British a method of analyzing 
offshore terrain that enabled him and 
others to find an opening in the sub- 
merged sandbars off the coast at Anzio. 

AFHQ based the final decision to 
land at Anzio on the existence of suit- 
able beach exits and good roads lead- 
ing twenty miles to the Alban Hills, a 
mountain mass rising across the ap- 
proaches from the south to Rome and 
affording access to the upper end of 
the Liri valley. Here was a possibility of 
cutting off German forces concentrated 
on the Cassino front. At the very least, 
AFHQ hoped that a flanking opera- 
tion at this point, as part of a great 
pincer movement, would force an enemy 
withdrawal northward and that Rome 
would fall quickly into Allied hands. 35 

Beginning on 4 January near Naples, 
VI Corps underwent intensive amphibi- 
ous training which culminated in a 
practice landing below Salerno. Early 
on 2 1 January over 250 ships carrying 
nearly 50,000 men moved out of Naples. 



sa Engineer History, Mediterranean, p. 45. 
34 Ibid, pp. 45-46. 



S5 Interv, Col Harry O. Paxson, May 59; Fifth Army 
History, vol. IV, pp. 21, 85. 



THE WINTER LINE AND THE ANZIO BEACHHEAD 



193 



To keep the enemy from suspecting its 
destination and to avoid minefields, the 
convoy veered to the south on a wide 
sweep around Capri. After dark it turned 
toward Anzio and dropped anchor just 
past midnight. The enemy was caught 
almost completely off guard, and the 
Allies met only token coast defenses. 
The Germans had been aware of Anzio's 
possibilities as a landing beach but had 
weakened defenses there in order to 
hold the Cassino front. 36 

Good weather and a calm sea favor- 
ed the operation. The landings began 
promptly at H-hour, 0200, 22 January, 
and went rapidly and efficiently. (Map 
9) U.S. troops (X-Ray Force) went ashore 
over beaches south of Nettuno, a few 
miles southeast of Anzio, and over Yel- 
low Beach, near Anzio. The port fell 
quickly. Meanwhile, the British (Peter 
Force) landed six miles north of Anzio. 
The smoothness and dispatch that 
marked the U.S. 3d Division landing 
and the rapid organization of the 
beaches was helped by the 540th Engi- 
neer Combat Regiment's experience in 
beach operations. By daylight the 
beaches were ready to receive vehicles. 
In addition to the 540th, beach troops 
included the 1st Naval Beach Battalion, 
the 36th Engineer Combat Regiment 
at the port, and the British 3d Beach 
Group on the Peter beaches. All were 
under Col. William N. Thomas, Jr., VI 
Corps engineer. 37 

All assault troops from LCVPs and 
LCrs debarked on the beaches on sched- 
ule. The port of Anzio was taken almost 
intact, and by early afternoon the 36th 
Engineers had cleared it sufficiently to 
receive landing craft. Except for a brief 



period on D-day, the beaches were 
never congested. Excellent 1:10,000 
scale beach maps, distributed at the 
beachhead by the 17 10th Engineer Map 
Depot Detachment, helped avoid confu- 
sion. Beach crews with attached service 
units reported directly to assigned areas 
and began organizing their respective 
dumps. After midafternoon American 
supplies could move on 2 1/2-ton trucks 
or DUKWs directly to corps dumps, 
which were accessible to the gravel- 
surfaced roads inland. All beach dumps 
except ammunition were "sold out" or 
moved to corps dumps inland.. On D 
plus 1 the 540th found the two best 
beaching channels and favorable exit 
roads and consolidated unloading at 
two American beaches. The regiment 
eliminated the British Peter beaches by 
D plus 3, and British supply rolled in 
over the American beaches as well. 38 

One obstacle to hasty unloading was 
shallow water, which made it necessary 
to anchor the Liberty ships two miles 
offshore. Cargoes therefore came in on 
LCTs or DUKWs. The average load of 
all LCTs was 151 long tons; of DUKWs, 
three tons. Cargo from Liberty ships 
began to reach the beaches on the after- 
noon of D plus I, and the VI Corps 
dumps (one mile beyond the beach) 
opened at 2300 the same day. All the 
D-day convoys of LCTs and LSTs were 
completely unloaded by 0800 on 24 
January, D plus 2. But even their rapid 
discharge could not obviate the fact that 
the scarce LSTs supplying the Anzio 
beachhead had to remain on the scene 
until spring, long past the time allotted. 
Their continued stay in the Mediterra- 
nean to serve shallow-water ports denied 



3b Fifth Army History, vol. IV, pp. 59-62; Paxson 
interv. 

37 Engineer History, Mediterranean, pp, 85—86. 



,8 Hist 36th Engr C Rgt, 1 Jun 4L-23 Jun 44; 
Engineer History, Mediterranean, p. 1 00; Hist 540th Engr 
C Rgt, 1942-45; Paxson interv. 



THE WINTER LINE AND THE ANZIO BEACHHEAD 



195 



them to the BOLERO planners in Eng- 
land, who were bent on accumulating 
at least half the assault shipping re- 
quired for the invasion of the Conti- 
nent by the beginning of 1944. 39 

The 540th owed its performance at 
Anzio to several factors. The men of 
the unit had been able to plan for 
SHINGLE at Caserta with the 3d Division, 
and they had practiced landings with 
the division and its attached units. Dur- 
ing 17— 19 January the final exercise, 
WEBFOOT, involved the 3d U.S. and 
1st British Divisions, a Ranger force, 
and attached supply troops. The re- 
hearsal was not full scale; LSTs did not 
carry vehicles and LCTs were only 
token loaded, but the assault units did 
get some training in passing beach 
obstacles, unloading personnel and 
equipment, combat firing, and general 
orientation. 40 

The 540th had been able to obtain 
extra 1/4- and 3/4-ton trucks, D-7 
angledozers, sixteen- and six-ton prime 
movers, cranes, mine detectors, beach 
markers, and lights. The D— 7s proved 
especially valuable on D plus 1 in pull- 
ing out 100 vehicles mired down in the 
dewaterproofing area. Compared with 
previous landings, the 540th Engineers 
had a better system of recording the 
numbers of vehicles and personnel and 
quantities of supplies by class. These 
advantages helped to nullify mistakes 
in planning and deficiencies in training. 
Not until the 540th was about to leave 
Naples for Anzio did its attached units 



Joseph Bykofsky and Harold Larson, The Trans- 
portation Corps: Operations Overseas, United States Army 
in World War II (Washington, 1957), p. 58; Coakley 
and Leighton, Global Logistics and Strategy, 1943—45, 
p. 233. 

40 Mark W. Clark, Calculated Risk (New York: Harper 
and Brothers, 1950), pp. 268-69. 



report — after loading plans were com- 
plete. Since the 540th had to plan for 
the embarkation on the basis of TOEs 
rather than actual unit strengths, it was 
difficult to load units properly. The 
loading plan was faulty in that beach 
groups went aboard by units instead of 
by teams. 41 

Supplies landed late at the port of 
Anzio on D-day, when LSTs did not 
enter from the outer harbor until eight 
hours after naval units had signaled 
that the harbor had been swept for 
mines. The Navy beachmaster would 
not take the responsibility of acting on 
the signal, and the deadlock was bro- 
ken only when two Army officers ap- 
pealed personally to Admiral Hewitt. 

Officers of the 540th Engineers some- 
times found working with the British 
easier than working with the U.S. Navy, 
possibly because there were more oppor- 
tunities for friction with the U.S. Navy. 
Its responsibility for unloading extend- 
ed to the beaches, whereas the Royal 
Navy's jurisdiction ended when the 
craft hit the beaches. Teamwork was 
often poor between floating and shore 
U.S. Navy echelons. Furthermore, the 
commanding officers of the naval beach 
battalion had been reluctant to train 
and live with the Army. The naval 
beach group did not have enough bull- 
dozers and needed Army help for sal- 
vage work. The Navy also needed bull- 
dozer spare parts, but these the Army 
could not provide because the Navy 
used Allis-Chalmers bulldozers, which 
the Army did not have. 42 

At the beach the principal engineer 
work was to improve exit roads over 
soft, boggy clay soil. Engineers had to 

41 Hist 540th Engr C Rgt, 1942-45. 

42 Rpt, Col D. A. Newcomer, 28 Jun 44, in AGF Bd 
Rpt 162, NATOUSA. 



196 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 




36th Engineer Combat Regiment Troops Remove German Charges from 
buildings in Anzio. 



use corduroy because they did not have 
enough rock, even after taking as much 
as possible from the rubble-strewn towns 
of Anzio and Nettuno. They used Som- 
merfeld matting, which the 540th Engi- 
neers modified for beach roads, to some 
extent. They made the rolls lighter and 
the footing better by removing four out 
of every five lateral rods and using 
the extra rods as pickets to hold down 
the matting. The engineers tried brush 
on the roads, but corduroy proved the 
best substitute for rock. 43 



4 * Notes on Landings in Operation Shingle, 8 Feb 
44, in Hist 1st ESB, Jan-Dec 44; Maj Gilbert T. 
Phelps, Observations in Amphibious Landing, Anzio, 
in AGF Bd Rpt 120, NATOUSA; Hist 540th Engr C 
Rgt. 



On 7 February the enemy began a 
series of assaults that threatened to split 
the bridgehead within a fortnight. Engi- 
neers went into the line as infantry, 
holding down both extreme flanks of 
the Anzio enclave, the 39th Engineer 
Combat Regiment on the right and the 
36th Engineer Combat Regiment, a 
corps unit, taking over the British 56th 
Infantry Division's responsibility in a 
sector about nine miles northwest of 
Anzio on the extreme left. In the line 
for forty-five days through February 
and March, the 36th held 5,600 yards 
of front along the Moletta River with 
2,150 men, its reserve almost constantly 
employed. The engineers spent I 1/2 
days training mortar men and consider- 



THE WINTER LINE AND THE ANZIO BEACHHEAD 



197 



able time afterward gathering necessary 
sniper rifles, automatic weapons, and 
37- and 57-mm. antitank guns. 44 

Though the 39th performed well, the 
hard-pressed 36th quickly showed its 
inadequate infantry training. Conspicu- 
ous was its failure to seize prisoners dur- 
ing night patrolling in the early com- 
mitment to the line. Upon a corps order 
to send out one patrol each night from 
each battalion on the front, the engi- 
neers blackened their faces and reversed 
their clothing to camouflage themselves 
and left their helmets behind to avoid 
making noise in the shrubbery. When 
they sallied out into the darkness, how- 
ever, they lost two men to the Germans 
and captured no prisoners in return. 
One observer remembered that the 
men were not "prepared to kill" and 
seemed afraid to fire their rifles in fear 
of drawing the attention of the whole 
German Army to themselves. The reg- 
iment's inexperience also showed in 
casualty figures, which reached 16 per- 
cent. Seventy-four men were killed in 
action, 336 wounded, and 277 hospita- 
lized. 45 

During the fighting at Anzio destroy- 
ing bridges was more important to the 
engineers than building them. A bridge 
VI Corps engineers blew up at Car- 
roceto on the afternoon of 8 February 
kept twelve German tanks from break- 
ing through to the sea. On the tenth the 
engineers staved off a possible German 
breakthrough by destroying a bridge 
over Spaccasassi Creek. 

When the Allies were forced on the 



44 Hist 36th Engr C Rgt, 1 Jun 41-23 Jun 44. 

45 Ibid.; Rpl, Newcomer, 28 Jun 44, in AGF Bd Rpt 
162, NATOUSA. 

46 Dept of the Army, Historical Div, Anzio Beachhead, 
(22 January —25 May 1944), American Forces in Action 
Series (Washington, 1947), pp. 83-84, 97. 



defensive at Anzio the engineers laid 
extensive minefields for the first time 
in the Italian campaign. They planted 
mines haphazardly and made inaccu- 
rate and incomplete records. They laid 
many mines, both antipersonnel and 
antitank, at night in places with no dis- 
tinct natural features. Some of this haste 
and inefficiency was attributed to insuf- 
ficiently trained men, including some 
who were not engineers and who were 
not qualified for mine-sowing. Troops 
disregarded instructions 15th Army 
Group issued early in the campaign on 
recording friendly minefields. The re- 
sult was a marked increase in casualties. 

As the Anzio beachhead stabilized, 
haphazard methods became more delib- 
erate and careful. Fields were marked 
and recorded before mines were actu- 
ally laid. After 10 February VI Corps 
insisted that antipersonnel mines be 
placed in front of protective wire and 
that antitank mines be laid behind the 
final protective line, both in order to 
guard against night-lifting by the en- 
emy. At regular intervals the VI Corps 
engineers issued a map overlay num- 
bering and locating each antipersonnel 
and antitank minefield on the beach- 
head. 47 

No standard method of planting mines 
existed, but the system developed by 
the 109th Engineer Combat Battalion 
was representative. The battalion used 
four men to a row, with teams made up 
of a pacer who measured the distance, 
a driver who placed the mines, and two 
armers who activated the mines. At 
Anzio in April 1944 a platoon of the 
109th in one day devoted 240 man- 
hours to planting 2,444 antitank mines 



47 AGF Bd Rpt 465, MTO, 9 Jun 45; Rpt, Newcomer, 
28 Jun 44, in AGF Bd Rpt 162, NATOUSA. 



198 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 




Soldier From the 39th Engineer Combat Regiment Assembles M1A1 
Antitank Mines at Anzio 



and 199 antipersonnel mines. A sepa- 
rate squad took ninety-six man-hours 
to mark these minefields. 

One of the most serious mistakes in 
planting mines was laying them too 
close together. For example, the 39th 
Engineer Combat Regiment laid a large 
minefield that a single mortar shell 
detonated. The experience of many 
units proved that a density of 1 1/2 anti- 
tank mines per yard of front was the 
optimum for regularly laid out fields 
to avoid sympathetic detonation. The 
engineers obtained this density by lay- 
ing several staggered rows of mines, an 
approximation of the German pattern. 
The AFHQ engineer specified wider 
spacing for antipersonnel mines, a rule 



of thumb that established one mine per 
three to five yards of front, assuming 
the use of trip wires. 48 

Once the Germans stopped trying to 
eliminate VI Corps' beachhead, the 
Anzio front setded down into stalemate. 
The 39th Engineers, with assistance 
from the 540th, then had an opportu- 
nity to improve all roads within the 
beachhead. Good macadam roads ran 
through the area in wagon-spoke style, 
and a few smaller gravel roads branched 
off. Engineers bulldozed additional dirt 
roads across the open fields, but trucks 
using them had to drop into very low 



48 Hist I09th Engr C Bn, 1943-45; AFHQ Engr 
Technical Bull 15, 10 Feb 44. 



THE WINTER LINE AND THE ANZIO BEACHHEAD 



199 



gear to plow through the mud. The 
engineers maintained only about thirty- 
one miles of road at the beachhead, but 
constant enemy bombing and shelling 
compelled continuous inspections and 
surface repair. Engineers built a consid- 
erable number of bridges in the beach- 
head area; the 10th Engineer Combat 
Battalion, for instance, built 2 Baileys, 
9 treadways, and 19 footbridges. 49 

During the breakout from the Anzio 
beachhead, the 34th Division's 109th 
Engineer Combat Battalion had the task 
of opening and maintaining roads to 
the front lines, clearing lanes through 
Allied minefields up to the front, and 
opening gaps in Allied wire on the front 
to ensure the safe and uninterrupted 
passage of another infantry division, the 
1st Armored Division, and the 1st Spe- 
cial Service Force through the 34th 
Division's sector. Work started during 
the night of 14 May; enemy observa- 
tion forced the engineer units to work 
only after dark. Many of the minefields 
had been under heavy enemy fire from 
small arms, machine guns, and artillery. 
The mines became extremely sensitive 
and were likely to detonate under the 
slightest pressure. The engineers com- 
pleted most of the mine clearing dur- 
ing the night of 20 May, but they had 
to wait to remove wire and to mark gaps 
which would disclose the direction of 
the corps attack. On the night of 22 
May the engineers removed the wire 

49 Hist 39th Engr C Rgt, Jan-Dec 44; Hist 10th 
Engr C Bn, 1944. 



from the gaps and marked each lane 
with tracing tape and luminous mark- 
ers. The breakout was a complete sue- 
cess. 50 

On 31 May Peninsular Base Section 
took over the Anzio port after four 
months and twenty-five days of opera- 
tion by the 540th Engineer Combat Reg- 
iment. Supply had been slow through 
much of February and March because 
of bad weather and enemy air raids. 
The shallow offshore gradients and the 
small beaches hampered the use of 
regular cargo ships and coasters. Such 
vessels were excellent targets for Ger- 
man aircraft, so shallow-draft craft were 
used as much as possible. The whole 
process of delivering supplies speeded 
up in March with the use of preloaded 
trucks, which discharged from the LSTs 
and other vessels directly onto Anzio 
harbor's seawalls and pier and moved 
direcdy to the dumps. Liberty ships car- 
rying supplies unloaded onto LCTs or 
DUKWs. In turn, the LCTs unloaded 
onto DUKWs offshore or directly onto 
wharves in Anzio harbor; the DUKWs 
went directly to the dumps. Between 6 
and 29 February, 73,251 tons were dis- 
charged at Anzio; between 1 and 31 
March, 158,274 tons. The 7,828 tons 
that came in on 29 March made Anzio 
port the "fourth largest in the world." 51 



50 Hist 109th Engr C Bn, 1943-45. 

81 Engineer History, Mediterranean, p. 86; Bykofsky 
and Larson, The Transportation Corps: Operations Over- 
seas, pp. 223-24. 



CHAPTER X 



The Advance to the Alps 



By the time the Allied armies collided 
with the German Winter Line defenses 
in late 1943, the American theater com- 
mand had changed considerably. In the 
aftermath of the North African inva- 
sion the need to reorganize had been 
clear; the issue of new command ar- 
rangements was a lively one at the 
American headquarters, but the de- 
mands of combat kept it pending until 
the downfall of Axis forces in Tunisia 
and Sicily. 

The chief defect still lay in the over- 
lapping and sometimes contradictory 
authorities in the administrative and 
supply chain. A new theater engineer, 
Brig. Gen. Dabney O. Elliott, contin- 
ued to exercise his advisory and staff 
functions in three separate com- 
mands— AFHQ; NATOUSA; and 
COMZ, NATOUSA— an arrangement 
that bypassed the Services of Supply 
command. No formal controls of the 
engineering function existed between 
SOS, NATOUSA, and the chief engi- 
neer of the theater as they did in Gen- 
eral Lee's SOS, ETOUSA, jurisdiction 
in the United Kingdom. Maj. Gen. 
Thomas B. Larkin as chief of the SOS, 
NATOUSA, command had only nomi- 
nal control over the base sections then 
existing in the theater and virtually no 
say in the flow of supply once materiel 
moved out of the bases for the front 
lines. Larkin's relationship with the 
AFHQ G— 4 was unclear and in many 



ways duplicative through the period of 
operations in North Africa; it improved 
only after his concerted efforts to revise 
the command situation met with some 
success. 1 

Reorganization 

In March 1943, one month after the 
formation of the theater, General Lar- 
kin began a campaign to eliminate the 
anomalies and duplications that weak- 
ened or destroyed his effectiveness as 
supposed chief of all American supply 
operations in the theater. He made 
small headway against the resistance of 
the staff officers at NATOUSA and 
AFHQ who insisted upon retaining 
their acquired authority, citing in their 
own behalf the dangers of repeating 
the-bitter disputes over the SOS, ETO- 
USA, empire under General Lee. In 
hopes of reducing the manpower drains 
in theater-level headquarters, the War 
Department sent an Inspector General's 
survey team to North Africa and to 
England in late spring 1943. The team's 
report, in effect, recommended a 50 
percent reduction in the number of 
overhead personnel in the theater staffs 
in NATOUSA, a solid impetus for reor- 
ganization and economy in manpower. 

1 See fch. V.l This section is based upon Meyer, The 
Strategy and Logistical History: MTO, ch. VII, except 
as otherwise noted. General Elliott was succeeded as 
theater engineer on 1 September 1944 by Maj. Gen. 
David J. McCoach, Jr. 



THE ADVANCE TO THE ALPS 



201 



Various plans originating at AFHQ 
and N ATOUSA undertook to eliminate 
the command discrepancies and to re- 
duce the manpower surpluses in head- 
quarters' staffs. Their authors usually 
proceeded on the assumption that vast 
changes were necessary in any staff ele- 
ment but their own. After a summer 
and fall of conflicting suggestions in 
1943, the SOS, NATOUSA, command 
had no increased authority to deal with 
its increased responsibilities, which now 
spanned the Mediterranean and ex- 
tended to a new base section in Italy. 
Headquarters, NATOUSA, insisted 
upon the continued control of person- 
nel in the base sections, denying to 
Larkin efficient use of manpower and 
timely use of specialty units when he 
needed them. 

The arrival of a new theater com- 
mander broke the impasse and pre- 
saged the decline of Headquarters, 
NATOUSA, and the disappearance of 
COMZ, NATOUSA, in early 1944. On 
31 December 1943, Lt. Gen. Jacob L. 
Devers relieved General Eisenhower, 
who returned to ETOUSA. When De- 
vers arrived in North Africa on 8 Janu- 
ary 1944, the War Department had 
imposed a deadline of 1 March for the 
revision of the NATOUSA command 
structure. Devers' arrival also roughly 
coincided with another exchange be- 
tween SOS, NATOUSA, and Head- 
quarters, NATOUSA, about more men 
for the burgeoning supply responsibili- 
ties in the theater. Within a week in 
late January General Larkin received 
two contradictory orders from NATO- 
USA. The first instructed him to tap 
the existing base sections for man- 
power, a course he was reluctant to take 
since it would rob already shorthanded 
organizations in his nominal chain of 



command; the second canceled the 
authority to secure manpower from 
even that source and removed man- 
power allocations authority for base sec- 
tions entirely to the NATOUSA level. 

On 14 February Devers called the con- 
ference that restructured the theaters. 



(Chart 2) \ His NATOUSA General Or- 
der Number 12, effective 24 February, 
transferred all duties and responsibili- 
ties of COMZ, NATOUSA, originally 
set up only as a rationale to support the 
position of deputy theater commander, 
to SOS, NATOUSA. Inlhe month after 
the meeting the NATOUSA staff took 
much of the theater reduction in man- 
power. 2 While the staff did not disap- 
pear altogether, its functions became 
almost entirely identified with the 
American side of AFHQ. Headquarters, 
NATOUSA, concerned itself with mat- 
ters of broad policy at the theater level, 
and General Larkin formally assumed 
command of all base sections in the the- 
ater and the service and supply func- 
tions between them and the combat 
zones. 

Consistent with this general transfer 
and with a subsequent NATOUSA staff 
memorandum, the AFHQ-NATOUSA 
engineer retained only policy and plan- 
ning responsibility. He could initiate 
broad directives, recommend theater- 
wide engineer stock levels, write train- 
ing directives and standards, recom- 
mend troop allocations in the com- 
munications zone, maintain technical 
data on Allied or enemy engineer equip- 
ment or doctrine, and provide analyses 
of operations plans and American engi- 
neer commitments in the theater. The 



* NATOUSA GO 12, 20 Feb 44; History and Com- 
position of the North African/Mediterranean Theater 
of Operations, 12 Sep 42-2 Dec 47, p. 67. 



THE ADVANCE TO THE ALPS 



203 



broader engineer aspects of Allied 
military government also fell within his 
purview. 

In General Larkin's SOS, NATO- 
USA, executive agency, the SOS engi- 
neer had unfettered jurisdiction over 
operational engineer matters in the the- 
ater COMZ. He controlled engineer 
units assigned to that command, gov- 
erned the issue of nonstandard equip- 
ment to all American engineer troops, 
ruled on all requests to exceed accom- 
modation scales, and handled all Amer- 
ican real estate questions. He also con- 
trolled the issue of engineer supply to 
Allied forces, coordinating with AFHQ 
only on British requests. He was re- 
sponsible for taking general operational 
directives emanating from AFHQ and 
preparing supply requisitions and bills 
of materials to support stated theater 
programs and policies. 4 

When the Fifth Army Base Section 
at Naples became the Peninsular Base 
Section (PBS) on 25 October 1943, it 
passed from Fifth Army control to the 
still divided American theater com- 
mand in North Africa. Until February 
1944 the base section in the Mediterra- 
nean came under NATOUSA head- 
quarters for command and administra- 
tion but answered to General Larkin's 
SOS, NATOUSA, organization for sup- 
ply. General Pence's PBS command also 
had some responsibilities to the 15th 
Army Group in administrative areas, 
especially those affecting the Italian 
population. 



3 NATOUSA Adm Memo 2, 20 Feb 44; NATOUSA 
Staff Memo 14, 21 Mar 44, app. B. 

4 NATOUSA Staff Memo 14, 21 Mar 44, app. B; 
History of Allied Force Headquarters and Headquar- 
ters NATOUSA, pt. Ill, Period of the Italian Cam- 
paign from the Winter Line to Rome, sec. 4, pp. 
968-73. 



As Fifth Army moved north, base sec- 
tion jurisdiction grew: the army rear 
boundary was always the PBS forward 
boundary. The base section engineer, 
Col. Donald S. Burns, submitted his 
first consolidated estimates for the sup- 
ply requirements of the Fifth Army 
engineers, the III Air Service Area 
Command, and various other branches 
of the PBS Engineer Service and the 
Petroleum Branch on 15 October 1943, 
but the Fifth Army G— 4 continued to 
prepare engineer requisitions until De- 
cember, when the responsibility shifted 
entirely to PBS for Fifth Army and base 
section engineer supply. Requisitions 
then went directly from PBS to SOS, 
NATOUSA, and its successor com- 
mand, designated Communications 
Zone, NATOUSA, on 1 October 1944. 
Exactly one month later the theater 
command changed from NATOUSA 
to Mediterranean Theater of Opera- 
tions (MTOUSA). On 20 November the 
COMZ structure was eliminated and its 
functions passed to the G— 4 and the 
special staff of the MTOUSA head- 
quarters, which then handled engineer 
requisiti ons and o ther supply for the 
theater. {(Chart 3)f 



While the theater reorganization was 
bringing order to the higher echelons 
on the American side of AFHQ and its 
immediately subordinate commands, 
several important changes also oc- 
curred in Fifth Army's command and 
administration of its engineers and 
other service troops. Col. Frank O. 
Bowman, the Fifth Army engineer, pro- 
moted to brigadier general on 22 Feb- 
ruary, became convinced by early spring 



5 Ltr, Brig Gen Arthur W. Pence, CG, PBS, to Maj 
Gen Karl Truesdell, CG, C&GSC, 26 Nov 43, sub: 
Organization of PBS; Periodic Rpt, SOS NATOUSA, 
G-4, 31 Dec 43. 



THE ADVANCE TO THE ALPS 



205 



of 1944 of the necessity of obtaining 
direct command of all Fifth Army engi- 
neer troops. Other technical service 
staff officers shared this idea, particu- 
larly General Clark's ordnance officer, 
Col. Urban Niblo. 6 

On 26 March 1944, all corps and 
army engineer units were assigned to a 
new Fifth Army Engineer Command. 
Corps engineer units, however, re- 
mained attached to their respective 
corps. Accordingly, though General 
Bowman obtained administrative and 
supply control over all engineer units 
except those organic to divisions, he did 
not have operational control over those 
attached to corps. His headquarters, 
designated a major command of the 
Fifth Army, had an operational and 
administrative status similar to a gen- 
eral staff division, and he had the au- 
thority he considered necessary to meet 
his responsibilities. He could move ar- 
my engineer troops from point to point 
on his own authority and could trans- 
fer Fifth Army engineers from Ameri- 
can to British sectors and back. 7 

Below General Bowman in the Fifth 
Army engineer organization were corps 
engineer sections, each with a TOE call- 
ing for only six officers and fourteen 
enlisted men. Some attempt was made 
to obtain approval for corps-level engi- 
neer commands patterned after Gen- 
eral Bowman's, but the corps com- 
manders preferred that the corps en- 
gineer remain a staff officer only. 8 

The engineer combat regiment was 
the mainstay of corps-level engineer 
strength at the start of the Italian cam- 



paign, but in December 1942 War De- 
partment planning revised the formal 
and rigid structure of Army units, elimi- 
nating the "type army" and "type corps" 
conceptions. The redivision of forces 
that followed placed engineer units by 
functions, under Army Ground Forces 
control if they supported combat units 
or under Army Service Forces control 
if they had primarily service support 
assignments in base sections or the com- 
munications zone. Engineer units were 
frequently hard to classify since the na- 
ture of their assignments and training 
carried them across the boundaries 
established in Army Ground Forces 
Commander Lt. Gen. Lesley J. McNair's 
reorganization. 

Further revision of the unit classifica- 
tion continued through 1944; at the 
end of the year only divisional engi- 
neers were listed as combat troops, with 
nondivisional engineers supporting 
fighting units being listed as combat 
support. At the same time General 
McNair pushed for economies in ser- 
vice forces and in staff overheads in 
field commands. He strove to separate 
nondivisional service regiments, includ- 
ing engineers, into their component 
battalions and to impose a group head- 
quarters capable of handling four bat- 
talions at once in place of the formal 
and traditional regimental headquar- 
ters in the field. 9 The group headquar- 
ters had no units assigned organically 
but controlled the movements and work 
assignments of each battalion as an 
attached unit. 

In the summer of 1943, McNair out- 
lined his new organizational precepts 



b Mayo, The Ordnance Department: On Beachhead and 
Battlefront, pp. 187-89, 218. 

7 Engineer History, Mediterranean, p. 266. 

8 Hist 1 108th Engr C Gp, Feb-Oct 44; Comments, 
Col L. B. Gallagher, II Corps Engr, May 59. 



" WD Memo WDGCT 320 (17 Dec 42) for CG, AGF, 
24 Dec 42, sub: Reorgn of Units of the Army, 320.2/ 
5816; Coll, Keith, and Ros enthal, T he Corps of Eng- 
ineers: Troops and Equipment, p. 222. 



206 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



in a letter to all training commands 
under his control. He recommended 
that to manage troops engaged in com- 
bat the higher level headquarters divide 
the administrative load, making the 
corps solely a tactical headquarters and 
limiting field army headquarters to 
overall tactical supervision with re- 
sponsibility for supply and all other 
administrative functions. The new pro- 
gram did make for marked economies 
in manpower, and at the end of the 
war the revisions had contributed to far 
more efficient combat units. But Gen- 
eral McNair's innovations were not 
received with favor everywhere, nor 
were they applied consistently. The 
technical services, notably the engi- 
neers, had already anticipated some 
aspects of the reform, but as the dis- 
tance from Washington increased the 
revision tended to become watered 
down or compromised with proven 
local practice. 

Resistance to the group concept be- 
gan at the top of the Fifth Army Engi- 
neer Command in Italy. When the War 
Department authorized the establish- 
ment of group headquarters for all ser- 
vice units in October 1943, the rate of 
conversion was left to the theater com- 
mand. General Bowman, with the con- 
currence of General Elliott, the AFHQ 
engineer, slowed down the adoption of 
groups, keeping "the correspondence 
about the change bouncing between 
Italy and Washington." Bowman be- 
lieved that the group organization hurt 
morale because the attachment of sin- 
gle battalions to larger units lasted for 
only brief periods. Some engineer regi- 



10 Ltr, Lt Gen L. j. McNair to Coniding Generals, 
21 Jul 43, sub: Orientation with Reference to Revised 
Organization, 320.2/6031 (R) (21 Jul 43), GNGCT. 



ments continued to operate as such 
until 1945." 

Even after all the combat engineer 
regiments had converted, arguments 
continued over the value of the change. 
General Bowman also believed that the 
various group headquarters added to 
administrative overhead and reduced 
even further the amount of construc- 
tion equipment available, thereby ag- 
gravating an already critical problem. 
The II Corps engineer, Col. Leonard 
B. Gallagher, held that the group oper- 
ated less efficiently than the regiment. 
Lt. Col. William P. Jones, Jr., com- 
mander of an engineer battalion at- 
tached to II Corps' 1108th Engineer 
Combat Group, contended that the 
group wasted scarce trained engineer 
officers and specialists. There were, 
however, strong defenders of group 
organization who stressed the gain in 
flexibility and pointed out that a group 
headquarters could control more bat- 
talions than could a regimental head- 
quarters. The 1108th Combat Group 
in 1945, for example, had under it as 
many as seven units at one time and 
for a period supported five divisions. 
The quality of the group or regimental 
commander and the experience of his 
men were the keys to the effectiveness 
of both organizations. In any case, the 
self-contained battalion became a work- 
able organization. 12 

The divisional engineers had both 
staff and command responsibilities. 
Unlike the G-3, who thought mainly 
in terms of objectives, a division engi- 
neer was largely concerned with such 
matters as routes of approach, crossing 
sites, and covered assembly areas for 



11 WD Cir 256, 16 Oct 43. 
'* Paxson comments. 



THE ADVANCE TO THE ALPS 

equipment. Since building and main- 
taining roads in the division area as well 
as supporting three regimental combat 
teams were necessary, the three compa- 
nies of each divisional engineer battal- 
ion had to be divided among four mis- 
sions. This dispersion made the battal- 
ion less efficient and overburdened the 
men. Consequently, from the very be- 
ginning of the campaign, corps engi- 
neer units answered constant requests 
to move forward into divisional areas. 13 
General Bowman believed that those 
in command needed convincing that 
tactical boundaries between divisions 
and corps could not apply to engineer 
work. The division engineer could — 
and did — ask. the corps engineer to take 
over work in division areas that the divi- 
sion could not do with its own forces. 
In fact, army engineers sometimes 
worked well into divisional sections. 
The belief was quite common that the 
divisional combat battalion was simply 
too small to do all the work required of 
it. 

Throughout the long campaign the 
engineers of Fifth Army, especially those 
in the divisions, resisted attachment to 
combat teams. In the 313th Engineer 
Combat Battalion, 88th Division, the 
line companies normally supported the 
same infantry regiment all the time, 
with the engineer company commander 
becoming practically a member of the 
regimental staff. The companies never 
waited for the engineer battalion to 
direct them to perform their normal 
mission, so infantry regimental com- 
manders rarely insisted on having the 
engineer companies attached to them. 
But by the end of the war attachment 
was rare in other divisions because the 



13 Comments, Col Hugh K. Burch, 16 Jun 59. 



207 




General Elliott 



infantry commanders finally became 
convinced that engineer support would 
be where they wanted it when they 
needed it. 14 

Most engineer officers favored a daily 
support system in the belief that once 
engineer troops became attached to a 
forward echelon they could not easily 
be transferred again. They believed it 
impossible to forecast accurately the 
amount of engineer work required in 
the areas that lay ahead; any specific 
number of engineers attached would 
be either too large or too small. Addi- 
tionally, improvised task forces and 



w Summary of Opns, 19th Engr C Rgt with II Corps, 
1944-45; Bowman comments; Comments, Cole, 25 
Feb 59, and Armogida, 27 Apr 59. 



208 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



regimental combat teams in general did 
not have the staff organization to con- 
trol engineer work, so lost motion and 
confusion became common. The engi- 
neers also maintained that subordinate 
commanders retained engineer units 
after their specific task was done. 

The nature of engineer tasks often 
splintered engineer units — regiments, 
battalions, and detachments alike. De- 
pot, camouflage, maintenance, and 
dump truck companies were more sus- 
ceptible than others. In June 1944 the 
16th Armored Engineer Battalion came 
together for the first time in more than 
four months. Such dispersion inevitably 
affected performance, discipline, and 
morale, caused duplication of effort, 
and made administration more diffi- 



The Offensive Resumed 

When the Allied offensive resumed 
in May 1944, the main Fifth Army line 
south of Anzio was to drive north up 
the coast to meet VI Corps troops break- 
ing out of the static bridgehead. North 
of Anzio, other VI Corps units were to 
strike for Rome. Preparations for the 
renewed offensive began in March with 
a shift of British Eighth Army units 
westward to take over the Cassino and 
Rapido fronts, leaving in their place a 
garrison force on the eastern Italian 
coast. Thus relieved, and with replace- 
ments arriving to bring its divisions up 
to strength, Fifth Army consisted of the 
American II Corps and the French 
Expeditionary Corps concentrated on 



15 Comments, Armogida, Bowman, Cole, Burch, and 
Killian; Hists, 423d Engr Dump Truck Co, 15 Apr 
42- 1 Sep 45, and 16th Armd Engr Bn, Jun 44. Unit 
histories of separate, specialized engineer units bear 
out these conclusions. 



a thirteen-mile front between the Ital- 
ian west coast and the Liri River, with 
II Corps holding the left flank of the 
line. Two fresh but inexperienced 
American divisions, the 85th and the 
88th, would bear the brunt of the drive 
along Highway 7 to effect a junction 
with the forces at Anzio, now reinforced 
to a strength of 5 1/2 divisions. 16 

A devastating artillery bombardment 
commencing at 2300 on 1 1 May sparked 
the offensive on the southern front, and 
at dawn the Mediterranean Allied Air 
Forces rained destruction on the enemy 
rear. The Anzio breakout began on 23 
May, and on the twenty-fifth VI Corps 
was advancing toward the Alban Hills. 
The same day, after II Corps had driv- 
en sixty miles through the mountains, 
the beachhead and the Fifth Army 
main line were linked for the first time 
when men of the 48th Engineer Com- 
bat Battalion, II Corps, shook hands 
with the engineers of the 36th Engi- 
neer Combat Regiment, VI Corps, out- 
side the demolished village of Borgo 
Grappa. The linkup was part of the 
campaign that smashed the German 
Gustav Line and the less formidable Hit- 
ler Line, which the enemy had thrown 
across the Liri valley and the mountain 
ranges flanking it. 

The nature of the terrain and the 
scarcity of roads made the Fifth Army's 
offensive on the southern front largely 
mountain warfare, in which the experi- 
enced French corps bore a major share 
of the burden. The only good road 
available to Fifth Army, Highway 7, 
crossed the Garigliano near its mouth 

"* For tactical details see Ernest F. Fisher, Jr., From 
Cassino to the Alps, United States Army in World War 
II (Washington, 1977), pp. 29-38; see also Lt. Col. 
Chester G. Starr, From Salerno to the Alps: A History of 
the Fifth Army (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 
1948), pp. 176-77. 



THE ADVANCE TO THE ALPS 209 



and followed the coast to Formia. From 
there it bent northwest and passed 
through mountains to Itri and Fondi, 
then along the coastal marshes to Ter- 
racina, where it turned again to the 
northwest, proceeding on a level and 
nearly straight course through the Pon- 
tine marshes to Cisterna. Beyond Cis- 
terna the road led toward Rome by way 
of Velletri, skirting the Alban Hills to 
the south. 

Highway 7 lay at the extreme left of 
the line of advance, but it was II Corps' 
sole supply route. Apart from this high- 
way Fifth Army had the use of two or 
three lateral roads, a few second- and 
third-class mountain roads in the French 
corps' area, and some mountain trails. 
Insufficient as the roadnet was, it was 
spared the sort of destruction that the 
enemy might have been able to visit 
upon it in a less hasty withdrawal. 

After the breakout began, the engi- 
neers labored night and day to open 
the roads and keep them in shape un- 
der the heavy pounding of military 
traffic. At first the engineers' chief con- 
cerns were to erect three additional 
Class 40 bridges over the Garigliano, 
two for the French and one for II 
Corps; to strengthen to Class 30 a bridge 
in the French Expeditionary Corps 
zone; and to build several assault brid- 
ges for troops and mules. Then engi- 
neers began improving trails into roads 
for jeeps, tanks, and 2 1/2-ton trucks, 
often under artillery fire. Starting about 
the middle of May the principal engi- 
neer work was clearing and repairing 
Highway 7 and a road leading across 
the northern slopes of the Aurunci 
M ountains to Pico on lateral Highway 
82.1 (Map 10)V 



The 313th Engineer Combat Battal- 
ion, 88th Division, undertook swift con- 
struction to outflank the Formia corri- 
dor on Highway 7. In one day the men 
of this battalion opened a mountain 
road that the Germans had spent two 
weeks preparing for demolition. This 
road connected with a trail two miles 
long that the 313th built in nine hours 
over steep hills that vehicles had never 
before traversed. A few men working 
angledozers through farmland and brick 
terraces and along mountain slopes did 
the work. A German engineer colonel, 
captured a few hours after the batde and 
evacuated over the road, was amazed, 
for no road had been there twenty-four 
hours earlier. 18 

At Itri on Highway 7 a platoon of 
Company A of the 310th Engineer 
Combat Battalion, 85th Division, built 
a 100-foot Bailey and turned over its 
maintenance to the 19th Engineer Com- 
bat Regiment. The 235th Engineer 
Combat Battalion, a II Corps unit that 
normally supported the 310th, followed 
up the 310th's repair and clearance 
work along Highway 7. The Germans 
had destroyed many bridges between 
Fondi and Terracina, and the Ameri- 
can engineers had to build bypasses and 
culverts. At a narrow pass between the 
mountains and the sea east of Terra- 
cina, tank traps and roadblocks, cov- 
ered by German fire from nearby hills, 
slowed the advance along the highway. 
When a blown bridge along this stretch 
halted American tanks, armored bull- 
dozers of the 235th and 310th Engi- 
neer Battalions and the 19th Engineer 
Regiment, all under fire, built a bypass 
that made it possible to resume the 
advance. Lt. Col. Allen F. Clark, Jr., 



17 Engineer History, Mediterranean, p. 82; Fifth Army 
History, vol. V, pp. 6-8, 98-99. 



18 Engineer History, Mediterranean, p. 1 13; Comments, 
Armogida, 27 Apr 59. 




ITALY 

SALERNO TO ROME 

Gustav Line 

26 50 Miles 

i 1 1 1 1 

25 SO Kilometers 



MAP W 



THE ADVANCE TO THE ALPS 



211 



commanding the 235th, operated one 
of the bulldozers. 19 

When the advance slowed at Terra- 
cina the 310th Engineer Combat Battal- 
ion immediately started on an alternate 
route to connect the highway with Son- 
nino. A road capable of carrying the 
traffic of an entire division had to be 
cut into the rocky slopes of the Ausonia 
Mountains. The engineers' road-build- 
ing machinery had done remarkable 
things in the mountain chain during 
the drive from the Garigliano, but this 
job required much hand work and many 
demolitions, explosives for which had 
to be carried by hand up rugged moun- 
tain slopes. The engineers had cut six 
miles of the new road, with only one 
mile left, when a breakthrough at Ter- 
racina made it unnecessary to finish the 
alternate route. The work was not en- 
tirely lost, for the road reduced the 
need for pack.mules and made it possi- 
ble to move division artillery farther 
forward to interdict the road junction 
at Sonnino. 20 

Beyond Terracina the highway ran 
thirty miles straight through the Pon- 
tine marshes to Cisterna. All the engi- 
neers available worked around the clock 
repairing and maintaining three routes 
through the marshy flats. The Germans 
had attempted to flood much of this 
region but were only partially success- 
ful; the water was low in the streams 
and canals. Nevertheless, the engineers 
had to do considerable filling along the 
main routes as well as some bypassing 
and bridging. When Highway 7 and the 
supplementary routes were open to the 
Anzio beachhead, troops and supplies 



19 Engineer History, Mediterranean, p. 110; Comments, 
Cole and Killian. 
zu Comments, Armogida, 27 Apr 59. 



came up from the southern front in an 
uninterrupted stream. Fifth Army's 
momentum was so great that after the 
capture of Rome on 4 June the ad- 
vance proceeded beyond the city with- 
out pause. 

The Arno 

During the summer advance to the 
Arno, about 150 miles, the Fifth Army 
front reached inland approximately 45 
miles. Two main national highways ran 
northward in the army zone. Highway 
1 ran northwest up the coast through a 
succession of important towns, includ- 
ing Civitavecchia and Leghorn, to Pisa, 
near the mouth of the Arno. For most 
of its length the highway ran along a 
comparatively flat coastal plain, no- 
where more than ten miles wide, but 
between Cecina and Leghorn, Highway 
1 twisted over mountains that reached 
down to the sea. The other main road, 
Highway 2, wound through hills, moun- 
tains, and river valleys along a route 
that led from Rome through Siena to 
Florence. There were five good two- 
way lateral roads in the area between 
Rome and the Arno; numerous smaller 
roads were, for the most part, narrow 
and unpaved. 

During the advance to the Arno the 
army had to cross only two rivers of 
any size, the Ombrone and the Cecina, 
both at low water. The port of Leg- 
horn fell to the 34th Division, II Corps, 
on 19 July. Beyond Leghorn lay numer- 
ous canals, but engineers quickly brid- 
ged them. Four days later the 34th Divi- 
sion reached Pisa. The march in the 
dry summer weather took place in clouds 
of dust that drew artillery fire and 
choked the troops. Soldiers wore gog- 
gles over their eyes and handkerchiefs 



212 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



across their noses and mouths. Some 
of the roads, surfaces ground through 
by military traffic, were six to eight 
inches deep in dust. Sprinkling the 
roads with water was the best way to lay 
the dust, but water tanks were so scarce 
that only the most important roads 
could be sprinkled. Sometimes the engi- 
neers applied calcium chloride, but it 
was also scarce and its value question- 
able. Engineers had some success with 
used oil, but even that was in short 
supply. 21 

During the June and July drive to 
the Arno much of Fifth Army's forces 
departed to prepare for Anvil, the 
invasion of southern France. The army 
lost VI Corps and the French Corps. 
That loss amounted to seven full divi- 
sions, and the loss of separate combat 
units amounted to another division. 
The nondivisional engineer units split- 
ting away at that time included the 36th 
and 540th Engineer Combat Regi- 
ments, the 48th Engineer Combat Bat- 
talion, and the 343d and 344th Engi- 
neer General Service Regiments. On 1 
June Fifth Army's assigned strength 
had been approximately 250,000; on 1 
August it was little more than 150,000. 
Making up the losses were the Japanese- 
American 442d Regimental Combat 
Team (which arrived in May but left 
for France in late September); two new 
and inexperienced U.S. Army infantry 
divisions, the 91st and 92d; and the first 
elements, about a regimental combat 
team, of the untried Brazilian Expedi- 
tionary Force, which was to grow to the 
size of a division. In August General 
Clark gained control over the veteran 



21 Hists, 313th Engr C Bn, 387th Engr C Bn, 1 1th 
Engr C Rgt, 1108th Engr C Gp, and other unit 
histories. 



British 13 Corps consisting of four 
divisions. 

From mid-July to mid-August Fifth 
Army made little forward progress; it 
paused to rest, to build up supplies, and 
to prepare for the ordeal ahead. The 
II and IV Corps held the 35-mile sec- 
tor along the Arno, IV Corps occupy- 
ing the greater part of the line while 
the major portion of II Corps was in 
the rear preparing for the coming of- 
fensive. The troops received special 
instruction in river crossing and moun- 
tain warfare. Engineer detachments 
gave instruction in handling footbridges 
and boats, in scaling steep banks with 
grappling hooks and ladders, and in 
detecting and clearing mines. 

The Italian campaign resumed in 
earnest on 24 August with an Eighth 
Army attack on the Adriatic front. The 
Fifth Army crossed the Arno on 1 Sep- 
tember, and on 9 and 10 September II 
Corps launched an offensive north of 
Florence. With 13 Corps beside it, II 
Corps battled through the mountains, 
capturing strongpoint after strong- 
point, and on the eighteenth reached 
the Santerno valley by way of II Giogo 
Pass. The 88th Division outflanked 
Futa Pass, key to the enemy's Gothic 
Line defenses, and on the twenty-second 
a battalion of the 91st Division secured 
the pass. Fifth Army had breached one 
of the strongest defense lines the enemy 
had constructed in Italy. The attack had 
been well timed, for the Germans had 
diverted part of their strength to the 
Adriatic front to ward off an Eighth 
Army blow. With Futa Pass in the hands 
of Fifth Army troops, the way was clear 
to send supplies forward by way of 
Highway 65 and to prepare for an 
attack northward to Bologna. 

Rain, mud, and many miles of moun- 



THE ADVANCE TO THE ALPS 



213 




The Rising Arno River Threatens a Treadway Bridge in the 1st Armored 
Division area, September 1944. 



tain terrain combined to aid the enemy. 
Highway 65 was the only completely 
paved road available to II Corps, and 
off that highway 2 1/2-ton trucks mired 
deep in mud. Such conditions made a 
mockery of mechanized warfare. Mules 
and men had to carry food and ammu- 
nition to the front. Nevertheless, II 
Corps troops pushed steadily on and 
brought the front to a point two miles 
from Bologna by mid-October. By 23 
October the forward troops were within 
nine miles of Highway 9 and could look 
down upon their objective in the Po 
valley. But here the fall offensive fal- 
tered. Exhaustion and heavy rains forced 
a halt, and II Corps dug in. 



The fall rains had given the engineers 
an enormous task. In September the 
Arno west of Florence in IV Corps' 
zone flooded its banks and on one occa- 
sion rose six to eight feet at the rate of 
eighteen inches an hour. Late in the 
month the Serchio also overflowed its 
banks north of Lucca, at Lucca itself, and 
at Vecchiano. So much bridge equip- 
ment was lost that the IV Corps engi- 
neer had to divert engineers from bridge 
construction and road work to salvage 
operations. 22 Mountain streams that 
had dwindled to a trickle in the sum- 



33 IV Corps Engr Rpt, Sep-Oct 44; Killian com- 
ments. 



214 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 




Bailey Bridge Construction over the 

Arno near Florence. 



mer changed in a few hours to raging 
torrents. Through most of October the 
rain continued unabated, becoming a 
torrential downpour by the end of the 
month. Cross-country movement virtu- 
ally ceased, and great quantities of mud 
were tracked onto the main roads from 
secondary roads and bivouac areas. Cul- 
verts and fills washed out, fords were 
impassable, and roads softened until 
they could not withstand heavy mili- 
tary traffic. 

Engineer vehicles and equipment 
deteriorated from constant hauling 
through deep mud over very rough 
roads. Breakdowns were so numerous 
and the supply of spare parts so low 
that at times some engineer units had 
to operate with only half of their or- 
ganic equipment. Because divisional 
engineers had to devote all their efforts 



to supporting frontline troops, corps 
engineers had to maintain supply routes 
in the divisional zones. 23 

More floods came in November, and 
at one time or another during that 
month all the principal highways were 
blocked with high water. The 39th 
Engineer Combat Regiment reported 
fourteen major road breaks along a six- 
mile stretch of Highway 6 northwest of 
Florence, making necessary the con- 
struction of four Bailey and three tim- 
ber trestle bridges. The autostrada, a 
four-lane superhighway that carved an 
arc through the Arno valley, connect- 
ing Florence with Pistoia, Lucca, and 
the coastal road north from Pisa, was 
covered for miles with water as deep as 
two feet. As the campaign ground to a 
halt, the whole Italian front settled 
down into mud. 24 

The Winter Stalemate 

The stalemate continued throughout 
the winter of 1944—45. To permit sup- 
plies to be brought forward, the engi- 
neers had to work unceasingly on the 
roads. On Highway 65 — the direct road 
to Bologna from the south, the main 
supply route for the Fifth Army's cen- 
tral sector, and the only fully paved 
road in the II Corps zone — -jeeps, trucks 
tanks, and prime movers rolled along 
almost without letup day and night. 
Already in bad condition and cut in 
places by the enemy, Highway 65 suf- 
fered serious damage from rain, snow, 
and the constant pounding of thou- 
sands of vehicles, many of them equip- 
ped with tire chains. Army, corps, and 



23 IV Corp Engr Rpt, Sep-Oct 44; Hist II Corps 
Enjjr Activities, 10 Scp-Nov 44; Burch comments. 
3 Hist 39th Engr C Rgt, Jun-Dec 44. 



THE ADVANCE TO THE ALPS 



215 



divisional engineer units had constantly 
to maintain the whole length of the 
road, especially north of Futa Pass, 
where the pavement virtually disap- 
peared. The main inland supply route 
for IV Corps, Highway 64, running 
from Pistoia to Bologna, carried less 
traffic than Highway 65 and therefore 
remained in somewhat better con- 
dition. 25 

In preparation for winter, the engi- 
neers placed snow fences and stockpiled 
sand. They speeded clearance after 
snowfalls to prevent ice formation and 
during thaws to prevent drainage prob- 
lems. Foreseeing that the greatest dif- 
ficulty with snow would come in the 
passes leading to the Po valley, AFHQ 
developed a plan involving joint trans- 
portation and engineer operations to 
clear the roads. The plan included con- 
trol posts, road patrols, and a special 
communications system to report con- 
ditions throughout each day. The Engi- 
neer Section, Fifth Army, prepared a 
map that indicated the areas where 
trouble could be expected, including 
areas the Germans held. The engineer 
and transportation units involved piled 
sand along the roads where the most 
snow could be expected and parked 
snow-removal equipment at strategic 
points along the roads. 

The plan worked in the II Corps 
area, where winter conditions were the 
most severe. In addition to American 
and British troops, hundreds of Ital- 
ians, both civilian and military, worked 
to keep the roads open. Large rotary 
snowplows augmented jeeps, graders, 
bulldozers, and wooden and conven- 
tional snowplow attachments fitted to 2 



25 Hist 185th Engr C Bn, 1944-45; Killian com- 
ments; Jones comments. 



1/2- and 4-ton trucks. Some German 
and Italian equipment the enemy had 
left behind also proved useful. Unfor- 
tunately, the plan did not develop suc- 
cessfully all along the front. IV Corps 
was not able to set up a system compar- 
able to the one II Corps employed 
because IV Corps did not have any- 
thing like the snow-removal equipment 
of II Corps. Instead, IV Corps units 
had to drop whatever they were doing 
when snow began to fall and clear the 
roads with whatever equipment was 
available. Only a few roads in IV Corps' 
area were seriously menaced by snow, 
however, and most lay in the coastal 
plain. 26 

During the fall and winter the engi- 
neers were able to open mountain trails. 
Soft banks and shoulders gave way 
readily before bulldozers, which wid- 
ened roads, provided turnouts on one- 
lane sections, and improved sharp curves 
and turns. Huge quantities of rock were 
required to keep these roads open to a 
volume of traffic never before contem- 
plated. The 19th Engineers used 25,000 
cubic yards of rock to rebuild a 10 
1/2-mile stretch of secondary road adja- 
cent to Highway 65 in the Idice valley. 
Keeping the improved trails open as 
roads necessitated unending work, in- 
cluding draining, graveling, revetting 
soft shoulders, removing slides, and 
building rock retaining walls. The great- 
est problem was drainage maintenance, 
for the mountain creeks, gullies, gorges, 
and cascades, when not properly chan- 
neled, poured floods upon the roads. 
Two months of constant work by thou- 
sands of civilians and soldiers using 



26 Engr Tech Bull 28, 28 Feb 45; Chf Engr, 15th 
Army Gp, Notes on Engr Opns in Italy, no. 26, Mar 
45; Hist 39th Engr C Rgt, 1945; Hist 175th Engr GS 
Rgt, Feb42-Oct 45; Comments, Bowman and Jones. 



216 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



both hand labor and machinery not 
only kept the roads open but improved 
them. In forward areas infantry units 
took over the maintenance of some of 
the lateral roads leading to their dis- 
persed forces. 27 

The first of the units reorganized 
according to the new group concept 
began operations in December 1944. 
To improve control over miscellaneous 
engineer units operating under the 
Fifth Army engineer, General Bowman 
organized the 1168th Engineer Com- 
bat Group, with Lt. Col. Salvatore A. 
Armogida in command. The cadre for 
the new command came from an anti- 
aircraft headquarters, and under it were 
such engineer units as a map detach- 
ment, dump truck companies, a heavy 
equipment company, a maintenance 
company, a fire-fighting detachment, a 
camouflage company, a topographic 
company, and a water supply company. 
Also attached were some Italian engi- 
neer battalions and a number of other 
units under an Italian engineer group. 28 

The Final Drive 

Exceptionally mild weather begin- 
ning in mid-February enabled engi- 
neers to make substantial progress in 
repairing and rehabilitating the road- 
nets and improving and extending 
bridges. With snow rapidly receding 
from the highlands, a company of the 
126th Engineer Mountain Battalion, 
organic to the 10th Mountain Division, 
built a 1,700-foot aerial tramway over 
Monte Serrasiccia (located 18 miles 
northwest of Pistoia) on 19 February. 



27 Hists, 1108Lh Engr C Gp, Sep-Dec 44, and 
1 138th Engr C Gp, 1944-45; Fifth Army History, vol. 
VIII, pp. 21-22, 26; Bowman, Burch, and Cole 
comments. 

2 " Bowman comments. 



Built at an average slope of 18 to 20 
degrees, the tramway was finished in 
ten hours despite enemy fire. Casual- 
ties could come down the mountain- 
side in three minutes instead of six to 
eight hours. The tramway hauled blood 
plasma, barbed wire, emergency K 
rations, water, and ammunition up the 
mountain. Another timesaver the bat- 
talion contributed was a 2,100-foot 
cableway constructed on 10 March, 
when the 10th Mountain Division was 
attacking over rugged terrain. Sup- 
ported by two A-frames and built in six 
hours, the cableway saved a six-mile trip 
for ambulances and supply trucks. 29 

Lt. Gen. Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., 
became commander of the Fifth Army 
in December when General Clark 
moved up to command the 15th Army 
Group. Before the spring offensive 
began, the Fifth Army received rein- 
forcements of infantry, artillery, and 
reserves. Its divisions were overstrength 
and its morale high as the troops looked 
forward to a quick triumph over the 
sagging enemy. The British 13 Corps 
had returned to Eighth Army, but Fifth 
Army's reinforcements helped balance 
that loss. 

In April the two Allied armies, care- 
fully guarding the secrecy of the move- 
ment, went forward into positions from 
which they could strike a sudden, dev- 
astating blow against the enemy. The 
Fifth Army front was nearly ninety 
miles long, reaching from the Ligur- 
ian Sea to Monte Grande, ten miles 
southeast of Bologna. The IV Corps 
held the left of this line — indeed, the 
greater part of it — stretching from the 
sea and through the mountains as far 
as the Reno River, a distance of about 
seventy miles. The II Corps crowded 



Ltr, Col RoberL P. Boyd, Jr., 8 fun 59. 



THE ADVANCE TO THE ALPS 



217 




General Bowman 



into a twenty-mile sector, and to its right 
the Eighth Army, with four corps, ex- 
tended the line to the Adriatic. 

Formidable mine defenses lay ahead. 
Typical was a minefield just west of 
Highway 65 that consisted of six to 
eight rows of antitank mines laid in an 
almost continuous band for two miles. 
Before the final Allied offensive could 
begin it was necessary — after passing 
through the Allies' own defensive mine- 
fields — to cut through or bypass such 
defenses, clearing German wooden box, 
Schu, and other mines that were diffi- 
cult to detect, notably the Topf, with its 
glass-enclosed chemical igniter. 30 

w Fifth Army History, vol. VI, pp. 84-85; Clark, 
Calculated Risk, p. 385; Jones comments. No true plas- 
tic mines were found in the Mediterranean theater, 
although rumors persisted throughout the war that 
the Germans were using them. All enemy mines had 
at least a small amount of metal in them. The rumor 
had begun in Sicily where a single improvised mine 



The final battle of the campaigns in 
Italy began early in April with a 92d 
Division diversionary attack on the ex- 
treme left, followed by an Eighth Army 
blow on the extreme right. Reeling, the 
enemy began to fall back, and troops 
of the Fifth and Eighth Armies cap- 
tured Bologna on 21 April. The two 
armies moved into the Po valley behind 
armored spearheads and once across 
the river spread out swiftly in pursuit 
of the disorganized enemy. 

In the broad valley the roadnet was 
good, in some places excellent, with 
many paved highways connecting the 
cities, towns, and villages scattered over 
the plain, a rich and thriving region in 
normal times. Most of the secondary 
roads were graveled and well kept, 
affording alternate routes to almost any 
point. Roughly parellel main arteries 
ran from east to west across the valley, 
while others ran north and south. With 
such a large, spreading roadnet and 
with secondary routes sometimes offer- 
ing shortcuts for the pursuing forces, 
the fleeing enemy could do little to 
impede the Allies' progress. As the cam- 
paign drew swifdy to its close, litde road 
maintenance was necessary and was 
mostly confined to primary routes. The 
prinicpal engineer task was crossing the 
Po, and that had to be done quickly to 
keep up the tempo of the pursuit and 
cut off enemy escape routes. 31 

The Po is a rather slow stream with 
many bars and islands and is generally 
too wide for footbridges. In front of 
Fifth Army its bed varied in width from 
330 to 1 ,3 1 5 yards, the actual water gap 



made of plastic explosive with a standard detonator 
was found. The nearest approach to the plastic mine 
was an Italian mine resembling the German Teller 
but made of bakelite. 

31 Engineer History, Mediterranean, pp. 231—32. 



218 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



extending from 130 to 490 yards. Allied 
air strikes had destroyed the perma- 
nent high-level and floating highway 
bridges. The Germans maintained com- 
munication across the river by ferries 
and by floating bridges, many of which 
they assembled from remnants of per- 
manent floating bridges after dark and 
dismantled before daylight. 

The engineers knew that a huge 
amount of bridging would be necessary 
to cross the Po. Treadway bridging was 
in limited supply. The 25-ton pontons 
of the 1554th Engineer Heavy Ponton 
Battalion would be essential, as would 
many floating Baileys, which Fifth Army 
could borrow from the British. The 
width of the Po required storm boats as 
well as assault boats, heavy rafts, infan- 
try-support rafts, and Quonset barges 
assembled from naval cubical steel pon- 
tons and powered by marine motors. 

Fifth Army engineers were confident 
that they could build bridges on piles 
eighty feet deep or more despite the 
soft mud of considerable depth that 
formed the Po's bed. Such piles came 
from U.S. engineer forestry units work- 
ing in southern Italy, and the long trail- 
ers of the 1554th Heavy Ponton Battal- 
ion brought them to the front. 

On 22 September 1944, Fifth Army 
engineers distributed a special engineer 
report on the Po throughout the army. 
The report consolidated all available 
information, and revised editions came 
out from then until the actual crossing. 
The 1168th Engineer Combat Group 
controlled camouflage, maintenance, 
depot, and equipment units and pro- 
vided administrative service for some 
engineer units not under its operational 
control. The 46th South African Sur- 
vey Company carried its triangulation 
net into the Po valley, while early in 



1945 the 66th Engineer Topographic 
Company issued 1 : 12,500 photo-mosaic 
sheets covering the area and special 
1:10,000 mosaics of possible crossing 
sites. The 1621st Engineer Model Mak- 
ing Detachment produced a number of 
terrain models of the Po valley. 32 

Special river-crossing training concen- 
trated mainly on II Corps engineer 
units, but close to the actual crossing 
day Fifth Army switched bridging to 
IV Corps. 33 The engineer units had 
thoroughgoing drills, and a group of 
II Corps' combat engineers got special 
instruction in all the assault and bridg- 
ing equipment the army stockpiled dur- 
ing the winter. This group was to oper- 
ate with the troops ready to make the 
main movement across the Po, whether 
of II or IV Corps. Fifth Army had esti- 
mated that a floating Bailey would be 
required in both II Corps and IV Corps 
areas; the 1338th Engineer Combat 
Group's 169th Engineer Combat Bat- 
talion was to build the II Corps bridge 
and the 1108th Engineer Combat 
Group's 235th Engineer Combat Bat- 
talion, the IV Corps bridge. During 
March and April the 169th Engineer 
Combat Battalion sent several of its men 
to the British Floating Bailey Bridge 
School at Capua, and in April the entire 
battalion moved to a site on the Arno 
west of Pisa for training in building the 
bridges. The 235th Combat Battalion 
got only a few days of training — and 
even that for only part of the battalion. 34 

Estimating that the Germans would 
expect II Corps to make the main attack 



32 Jones comments. 

33 Killian comments. 

34 Engr Hist II Corps, p. 248; Hists, 39th Engr C 
Ret, Jun-Dec 44; 169th Engr C Bn, 1 Nov 44-8 May 
45; and 235th Engr C Bn, Jan— May 45; Comments, 
Killian and Jones. 



THE ADVANCE TO THE ALPS 



219 




Engineers Bridging the Wide but Placid Po River 



along the axis of Highway 65, Fifth 
Army determined to surprise them by 
having IV Corps deliver the first heavy 
attack along Highway 64. To avoid 
warning the enemy General Bowman 
decided to keep major bridging equip- 
ment at Florence and Leghorn, approxi- 
mately 125 miles from the Po, rather 
than establish a forward bridge dump. 
Moreover, no suitable areas for bridge 
dumps existed along the parts of High- 
ways 64 and 65 that Fifth Army held. 
To make dumps would have required 
a great deal of earth moving in the mid- 
dle of winter, would have diverted engi- 
neers from other important jobs, and 
might have given away the plans for 
the attack. Because he expected the 
Germans to make a stand at the Po, 



Bowman believed he would have plenty 
of time to bring bridging to a place in 
the valley where it would be available 
for either corps. 35 

The German retreat was so precipi- 
tous that much of the planning proved 
a handicap rather than an advantage. 
The three leading divisions of IV Corps 
were at the river on 23 April, in advance 
of any II Corps units. Enemy resistance 
had become so weak that each division 
tried to get across the Po as fast as possi- 
ble to keep up the chase without inter- 
ruption. Engineers had to work fever- 
ishly to push the troops across by all 
means available. 36 

35 Bowman comments. 

Sfi Hist 39th Engr C Rgt, Jun-Dec 44; Comments, 
Bowman and Killian. 



220 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



The II Corps engineers diverted to 
IV Corps during the crossing opera- 
tion included operators for storm boats 
and Quonset barges, a company of the 
39th Engineer Combat Group's 404th 
Engineer Combat Battalion to operate 
floating equipment, the 19th Engineer 
Combat Group's 401st Engineer Com- 
bat Battalion, and the 1554th Heavy 
Ponton Battalion. 37 During the morn- 
ing of the twenty-third all II Corps' 
bridging that was readily available, in- 
cluding an Ml treadway bridge, 60 
DUKWs, 4 infantry support rafts, and 
24 storm boats with motors, moved in 
convoy to IV Corps. At Anzola fifty 
assault boats belonging to IV Corps 
joined the convoy, which went forward 
to the 10th Mountain Division and 
arrived at San Benedetto on the morn- 
ing of 24 April. On the night of the 
twenty-second, fifty other IV Corps 
assault boats had also reached the 10th 
Mountain Division. 38 

The crossing began at noon on 23 
April, when troops of the 10th Moun- 
tain Division ferried over the Po in IV 
Corps assault boats operated by divi- 
sional engineers of the 1 26th Engineer 
Mountain Battalion. Some of the men 
of the 126th made as many as twenty- 
three trips across that day. Starting at 
noon the engineers used the only equip- 
ment available to them — fifty sixteen- 
man wooden assault boats. By 2000 the 
126th had ferried across the 86th and 
87th Mountain Infantry Regiments plus 



On I March 1945, Headquarters and Headquar- 
ters Company (HHC), 19th Engineer Combat Regi- 
ment, became HHC, 19th Engineer Combat Group. 
The regiment's 1st Battalion was redesignated the 
401st Engineer Combat Battalion, and the 2d Battal- 
ion became the 402d Engineer Combat Battalion. 

38 II Corps Hist, Gen Staff Confs, 23 Nov 44-5 May 
45; Comments, Burch and Jones. 



medical detachments and two battalions 
of divisional light artillery (75-mm. 
pack). Only twelve boats were left, most 
of the rest having been destroyed by 
heavy German fire. The engineers suf- 
fered twenty-four casualties, including 
two killed. 35 * 

The 85th Division followed close be- 
hind. All assault river-crossing equip- 
ment the divisional engineers (the 3 1 0th 
Engineer Combat Battalion) had held 
had been turned over to IV Corps engi- 
neers in April before the Po crossing. 
When the division reached the Po its 
engineers had only nine two-man rub- 
ber boats and had to use local materials 
to build four infantry support rafts and 
three improvised rafts. On these, with 
the help of the 255th Engineer Com- 
bat Battalion of the 1 108th Engineer 
Combat Group, the 310th crossed all 
reconnaissance and combat units of the 
division except medium artillery. The 
crossing took forty-eight hours, but in 
spite of enemy artillery fire the engi- 
neers suffered no casualties. 40 

The IV Corps engineers had not 
expected to be in the vanguard cross- 
ing the Po and had to cope with prob- 
lems for which they were not prepared. 
During the afternoon of 24 April the 
401st Engineer Combat Battalion, a II 
Corps organization on loan to IV Corps, 
started building a treadway bridge near 
San Benedetto. Working all night, with 
the help of the 235th Engineer Com- 
bat Battalion, the 401st completed the 
950-foot span at 1030. 41 



;,! ' Ltr, Col Robert P. Boyd, Jr., CO, 126th Mtn Engr 
Bn, 8 Jun 59; Engineer History, Mediterranean, p. 237. 

' 1 " Hists, 310th Engr CBn, 1 Nov 44-8 May 45, and 
255th Engr C Bn, Apr-Jun 45; Engineer History, Medi- 
terranean, p. 242; Comments, Jones, Boyd, and Burch. 

11 Engineer History, Mediterranean, pp. 244—45; Hist 
401st Engr C Bn, Jan- Aug 45; Kiliian comments. 



THE ADVANCE TO THE ALPS 



221 



Late on the afternoon of 24 April 
the 1554th Heavy Ponton Battalion (II 
Corps) started work three miles up- 
stream on a heavy ponton bridge even 
though much of the equipment did not 
arrive until after the bridge had been 
completed with improvised equipment. 
When finished on the afternoon of the 
twenty-fifth the bridge was 840 feet 
long and consisted of 56 pontons, 49 
floats, and 4 trestles. A ferry of Navy 
Quonset barges, which could haul two 
2 1/2-ton trucks, had operated all dur- 
ing the night of 24 April. Day and 
night, for forty-eight hours after the 
completion of these first two bridges 
over the Po, two IV Corps divisions and 
part of a II Corps division went over 
the river; within the first twenty-four 
hours some 3,400 vehicles crossed the 
bridges. 42 

Meanwhile, II Corps' engineers seri- 
ously felt the diversion of men and 
equipment to IV Corps, which left them 
with no floating bridges or assault equip- 
ment. Much equipment supposedly still 
available to II Corps was lost, misplaced, 
defective, or still in crates. During the 
night of the twenty-third bridging equip- 
ment began to arrive, but treadway 
equipage was loaded on quartermaster 
semitrailers instead of Brockway trucks. 
On the morning of the twenty-fourth 
the II Corps engineer, Col. Joseph O. 
Killian, reported to General Bowman 
that he had no bridging available and 
that he had no idea when it would be 
available since treadway construction 
depended upon Brockways with their 
special facilities for unloading. The 
Brockways had gone to IV Corps, and 



Colonel Killian had to depend upon 
Fifth Army engineers for other equip- 
ment. Also, many motors for Quonset 
barges that reached the river were de- 
fective. These conditions held up opera- 
tions for almost a day. The confusion 
appreciably reduced II Corps engineer 
support to division engineers and led 
to last-minute changes in plans and hasty 
improvisations. The M2 treadway and 
ferries remained the chief means for 
crossing the Po in the II Corps area 
until missing parts for the Quonsets ar- 
rived from Leghorn. 

After the Po the hard-pressed II 
Corps engineers had two more major 
streams to cross, the Adige and the 
Brenta, and again bridging equipment 
was late getting to them. An almost 
intact bridge II Corps troops seized 
near Verona proved sufficient until 
other bridges could be erected. At the 
Brenta River bridging arrived with the 
advance guard of the 91st Division. One 
of the first elements across a tempo- 
rary trestle treadway at the Brenta was 
a section of the bridge train moving 
ahead with forward elements of the 91st 
Division to the next crossing. In the IV 
Corps sector German defenders of a 
bridge across the Mincio at Governola 
held up the forward drive on the twenty- 
fourth only momentarily. Although 
damaged, the bridge proved usable, 
and the 37th Engineer Combat Bat- 
talion, which for more than two days 
and nights had been working with little 
or no rest, had it open for traffic in a 
few hours. 43 

The drive rolled on, led by the 88th 
Division. The 10th Mountain Division 
and the 85th Infantry Division pushed 



4 Engineer History, Mediterranean, p. 254; II Corps 
Hist, Gen Staff Conf, Apr- May 45; Hist 401st Engr 
C Bn, Jan— Aug 45; Jones comments. 



1 * II Corps Hist, 1 Apr-2 May 45, an. 6; Comments, 
Bowman and Killian. 



222 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 




Raft Ferries a Tank Destroyer Across the Po 



on to Verona, and the 1st Armored 
Division helped to seal off all escape 
routes to the north with an enveloping 
sweep to the west. These moves, in con- 
junction with those of the Eighth Army, 
brought about the capitulation of the 
enemy and an end to the Italian cam- 
paign. 

The Shortage of Engineers 

From the landings at Salerno to the 
end of the war in Italy, a shortage of 
personnel affected practically all engi- 
neer work in Fifth Army and Peninsu- 
lar Base Section areas. Experienced 
men were constantly drained off as the 
war progressed: too few engineers were 
allocated to the theater at the start; War 



Department policies worked to the det- 
riment of engineer strengths; units 
went to Seventh Army and the inva- 
sion of southern France; and the engi- 
neer contingent in Italy suffered cas- 
ualties. The effect showed up not only 
in numbers but also in fluctuating train- 
ing levels, varying proficiency in stan- 
dard engineer functions, and problems 
of supply common to the theater. Not 
the least important for the engineers 
was the loss of experienced leaders. 

In its search for skilled manpower, 
the War Department imposed strictures 
on the theaters in addition to the organi- 
zational one of the group concept. To 
build new engineer units around sound 
cadres the department often ordered 
experienced engineer officers home to 



THE ADVANCE TO THE ALPS 



223 



form a reserve pool of knowledgeable 
men for new units but did not replace 
them in overseas units with men of 
equal ability. Replacements in Italy were 
usually deficient in engineer back- 
grounds, and some had no technical 
knowledge at all. Between 6 October 
1943 and 1 1 May 1944, forty-eight offi- 
cers of company and field grade went 
back to the United States as cadre, Gen- 
eral Bowman agreeing that they could 
be replaced by first and second lieuten- 
ants from training schools at home. 
Only some 50 percent arrived during 
that period, and the replacement sys- 
tem never made up the shortage. In 
the fall of 1944 the War Department 
stopped shipping individual engineer 
replacements, and the engineers turned 
to hastily trained elements such as anti- 
aircraft gun crews left in rear areas, 
usually ports, to protect traffic there 
from nonexistent Axis air raids. From 
September 1944 to April 1945, new 
engineer units formed from nonengi- 
neer organizations included three com- 
bat battalions, one light equipment 
company, one depot company, one 
maintenance company, two engineer 
combat group headquarters, and two 
general service regiments. One general 
service regiment and two combat engi- 
neer regiments already existing became 
group organizations, and another two 
general service regiments were reorgan- 
ized under new tables of organization 
and equipment. But with the exception 
of some separate companies, none of 
the new units ever attained its author- 
ized strength. The constant rotation of 
officers to the United States reduced 
some of the existing units to 85 percent 
of their usual strength. 

The number of engineer units drawn 
off by the Seventh Army in the spring 



of 1944 was somewhat counterbalanced 
by the reduction of Fifth Army's respon- 
sibilities when the British Eighth Army 
took over a major part of the front. 
But the units lost at the time were what 
remained of the best, for General Clark 
allowed Seventh Army to take any engi- 
neer unit it wanted. 

Casualties also took an expected toll. 
Of the peak engineer strength of 27,000 
in June 1944, 3,540 officers and men 
were lost. Of the 831 who died, 597 
were killed in action, 140 died from 
wounds received in action, and 94 died 
from other causes. Of the 2,646 wound- 
ed in action, 786 were wounded seri- 
ously and 1,860 only slightly. Some 
thirty-six were taken prisoner, and thir- 
ty remained missing in action. The 
numbers varied from unit to unit de- 
pending on proximity to the front line 
and the type of work performed. In 
forty-five days of combat at Anzio, the 
36th Engineer Combat Regiment lost 
74 men killed and 336 wounded. On 
the same front, where it was difficult to 
distinguish front lines from rear, the 
383d Battalion (Separate) in five months 
sustained casualties of four officers and 
eleven enlisted men killed and three 
officers and fifty-eight men wounded. 
Enemy artillery brought down the most 
engineers. For example, the 109th Com- 
bat Battalion between 20 September 
1943 and 11 May 1944 had seventy- 
one battle casualties, 90 percent from 
artillery blasts or shell fragments, and 
W percent from mine blasts and small- 
arms fire. At other times the losses from 
artillery were fewer, as low as 61 per- 
cent, but artillery always remained the 
chief culprit. 44 

44 Hist 185th Engr C Bn, Sep 44; Fifth Army Rpt of 
Army Commanders Weekly Confs, 24 Mar— 14 Apr 
45; Engineer History, Mediterranean, p. 163; Summary 



224 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



Training 

To offset inexperience, the engineers 
concentrated on training troops coming 
into the North African theater. Units 
had no choice but to accept troops with- 
out engineer training, and they took 
men with only basic military training. 
They had to be satisfied, in fact, with 
only a small percentage of Class II per- 
sonnel (categorized as rapid learners in 
induction tests), with the remainder 
Class III (average learners) and Class 
IV (slow learners). New officers were 
assigned to four to six weeks of duty 
with rear area general service engineer 
units before being thrust into work with 
combat engineers. 

Each engineer unit tried to maintain 
a reserve of trained specialists to Fill 
any vacancies that occurred and to keep 
up job training. Even so, engineer units 
in the Fifth Army did not have enough 
trained operators and mechanics, espe- 
cially for heavy equipment. A good 
operator could do three to five times 
the work of a poor one. 

Training in bridging, river crossing, 
mine techniques, heavy equipment, 
motor maintenance, surveying, intelli- 
gence techniques, mapping, photog- 
raphy, scouting and patrolling, moun- 
tain climbing, driving, marksmanship, 
and the use of flame throwers and gre- 
nade launchers went on throughout the 
campaign, most of it within the engi- 
neer groups, regiments, battalions, or 
companies. Many units trained at night. 
For example, the 19th Engineer Com- 
bat Regiment, before the spring offen- 
sive of May 1944, spent a third of its 
training time on night practices. One 



company of a battalion might perform 
assigned missions while the rest of the 
battalion trained. 45 

When the time was available, almost 
every unit practiced bridge construc- 
tion. The 235th Engineer Combat Bat- 
talion spent five days at the Arno build- 
ing floating treadways. Experienced 
units trained the inexperienced: the 
16th Armored Engineer Battalion in- 
structed the 36th and 39th Engineer 
Combat Regiments and the 10th Engi- 
neer Combat Battalion in building steel 
treadways, and the 1755th Treadway 
Bridge Company trained a number of 
units, including the 19th Engineer Com- 
bat Regiment. In August and Septem- 
ber 1944 the 175th Engineer General 
Service Regiment conducted a school 
for the British in building timber 
bridges. In April 1944 each company 
of the 310th Engineer Combat Bat- 
talion, 85th Division, built and disman- 
tled a 100-foot double-single Bailey. 

As early as November 1943 Fifth 
Army established a school in river cross- 
ing at Limatola, near the Volturno, and 
here a number of units practiced for 
the Rapido crossing. During a fortnight 
in January 1944 the 16th Armored 
Engineer Battalion practiced assault 
crossings with the 6th Armored Infan- 
try Regiment, 1st Armored Division. 
Four companies of the 19th Engineer 
Combat Regiment practiced between 10 
and 15 January 1944 with elements of 
the 36th Division at Pietravairano, six- 
teen miles north of Capua, instructing 
the infantry in the use of river-crossing 
equipment during both daylight and 
darkness. The engineers conducted 
similar training in preparation for the 
Arno and Po crossings. 



of Activities (Statistical) Mediterranean Theater, vol. 
XV, p. 18. 



45 Hist 1 9th Engr C Rgt, 1 944. The following is based 
on histories of the units mentioned. 



THE ADVANCE TO THE ALPS 



225 



Engineers also learned by attach- 
ment. Units just arriving in the Fifth 
Army zone sent officers and enlisted 
men — or whole units — to work with, 
observe, and learn from engineers who 
were more experienced. Elements of 
the 310th Engineer Combat Battalion 
were attached to the 313th Combat 
Battalion, elements of the 316th Com- 
bat Battalion to the 10th and 111th 
Combat Battalions, and elements of the 
48th Combat Battalion to the 120th 
Combat Battalion. 

The engineers also instructed non- 
engineer units in a number of other 
skills, most notably recognizing, laying, 
detecting, and removing mines. Two 
Fifth Army engineer mine-training 
teams supplemented the instruction 
that divisional engineer battalions gave 
to the infantry. The 16th Armored 
Engineer Battalion subjected the 92d 
Division to rigorous drill, requiring the 
whole division to go through a live 
minefield. 

Early in the campaign the British 
established a Bailey bridge school, open 
to Americans, at Capua, where some 
units felt the instruction was better than 
that provided at the American school. 46 
Americans gave some supplementary 
instruction at the British School of Mili- 
tary Engineering at Capua. Most of the 
American schools in the theater were 
subordinate to the Replacement and 
Training Command, MTOUSA. In the 
summer of 1944 MTOUSA established 
an American Engineer Mines and Bridge 
School along the Volturno in the vicin- 
ity of Maddaloni. As the Fifth Army 
moved northward and out of touch, the 
school shifted its emphasis to convert- 
ing American antiaircraft artillery (AAA) 



Jones comments, 1 Jun 59. 



troops into engineers and to training 
the Brazilian Expeditionary Force and 
the 92d Division. 47 

Lacking engineer troops, Fifth Army 
employed thousands of Italians. Some 
Italian engineer troops participated in 
the campaign, but most of the laborers 
were civilians who bolstered almost all 
the U.S. Army engineer units, especially 
those at army and corps level. Each unit 
recruited its own civilian force with help 
from Allied military government detach- 
ments. At one time the 3 10th Engineer 
Combat Battalion had more than three 
times its own strength in civilian labor- 
ers. The work of the Italians, while not 
always up to the standard desired by 
the American engineers, released thou- 
sands of engineers and infantrymen for 
other tasks. Some three thousand man- 
ual laborers worked for the engineers 
during the winter of 1944—45; in April 
1945 army and corps engineer units 
had employed 4,437 Italian civilians, 
most of them on road work. The Ital- 
ians loaded, broke, and spread rock; 
worked at quarries; cleared ditches and 
culverts for use of mule pack trains; 
and hand-placed rock to build up firm 
shoulders and form gutters. Those 
more skilled rebuilt retaining walls and 
masonry ditches along road shoulders. 48 

A specialized Italian civilian group, 
the Cantonieri, was the equivalent of 
U.S. county or local road workers. These 



47 Engr Service, PBS, Work Accomplished, 2 Oct 
43- 1 Sep 44; Comments, Jones, 1 Jun 59; Fifth Army 
Rpt of Army Commanders Weekly Confs, 24 Mar 
and 14 Apr 45; Engineer History, Mediterranean, p. 163; 
Summary of Activities (Statistical) Mediterranean 
Theater, vol. XV, p. 18. 

48 Comments, Jones and Armogida; Engineer History, 
Mediterranean, pp. 31, 164, 267; Fifth Army History, vol. 
VIII, p. 26; Fifth Army Rpt of Army Commanders 
Weekly Confs, 10, 24 Feb; 3, 10, 17, 24, 31 Mar; 7, 14, 
21 Apr; and 14 May 45. 



226 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



workers became available as the front 
lines moved forward and were espe- 
cially valuable in rapidly moving situa- 
tions when engineer road responsibili- 
ties increased by leaps and bounds. The 
chief of the Cantonieri of a given area 
did the same tasks on his section of 
road (about twelve miles) that he had 
done for his government. Truckloads 
of crushed rock and asphalt were un- 
loaded along the road as required, and 
the Cantonieri patched pavements and 
did drainage and other repair jobs. 49 

Engineer Supply 

Fiftb Army was not in Italy long 
before defects in the engineer supply 
system became evident. The engineers 
acted rapidly on the invasion plans that 
called for them to make the most use 
possible of locally procured material. 
Soon after Naples fell, reconnaissance 
parties scoured the area for supplies, 
making detailed inventories of plumb- 
ing and electrical fixtures, hardware, 
nails, glass, and other small standard 
items. Italian military stocks, especially 
those at the Fontanelle caves, were valu- 
able sources of needed materiel, and 
prefabricated Italian barracks served as 
hospital wards until American huts 
arrived. Though American engineers 
sequestered and classified over a hun- 
dred different types of stock and placed 
orders on Italian industry through the 
Allied military government that spurred 
the local economy and saved critical 
shipping space, control of requisition 
and issue of supply suffered from too 
few qualified men. 50 

The strain was particularly manifest 



Bowman comments. 
50 Engr Service, PBS, Work Accomplished, p. 275; 
PBS, Public Relations Sect, Tools of War, p. 22. 



closer to the combat elements. No orga- 
nization existed at Fifth Army corps or 
division levels to allocate engineer sup- 
ply, and the individual units drew 
directly from army engineer depots. 
Though the Fifth Army engineer tried 
to keep the dumps as far forward as 
possible, the using units had to send their 
own trucks back to collect supplies since 
the depots frequently did not have the 
transportation to make deliveries. The 
time needed for supply runs varied with 
the distances involved, the road condi- 
tions, and the frequent necessity for 
traveling blacked out. The average was 
one day, but the 313th Engineer Com- 
bat Battalion reported that trips of up 
to 250 miles required two days for the 
round trip. 51 

Many engineer units could ill afford 
either the time or the transportation 
required for frequent trips back to 
army dumps, so they began to main- 
tain small dumps of their own, stock- 
ing them with supplies from army engi- 
neer dumps and with material captured 
or procured locally. The only condi- 
tion Fifth Army imposed on these dumps 
was that all stocks be movable. It was 
common practice for each company of 
a divisional engineer combat battalion 
to set up a forward dump in the infan- 
try regimental sector, and such dumps 
often leapfrogged forward as the divi- 
sion moved. In the 45th Division, the 
120th Engineer Combat Battalion in a 
mobile situation always kept its dump 
about 1 1/2 miles behind its own com- 
mand post. 52 



51 Bowman comments; Hists, 39th Engr Rgt, Jun— 
Dec 44; 313th Engr C Bn, 1944-45; 337th Engr GS 
Rgt, 9 Sep 43- 1 Nov 44; and 120th Engr C Bn, 9 Sep 
43-1 May 44. 

52 Hists, 182d EngrCBn, 16 Sep 44- 5 May 45, and 
337th Engr GS Rgt, 9-15 Sep "43; AGF Bd Rpt 162, 
NATOUSA, 28 Jun 44. 



THE ADVANCE TO THE ALPS 



227 



There were never enough depot 
troops to operate army engineer sup- 
ply dumps. Before the breakout in May 
1944 Fifth Army had only one platoon 
(one officer and forty enlisted men) of 
the 451st Engineer Depot Company, 
while the rest of the company remained 
with PBS. The platoon had to move 
often to stay close to the front but still 
managed to fill an average of seventy- 
five requisitions every twenty-four hours. 
Frequently, the platoon operated more 
than one depot simultaneously — three 
in May 1944. When the 451st concen- 
trated at Civitavecchia in June, it took 
500 trucks, enough for seven full- 
strength infantry regiments, to move 
the unit's stock and equipment north. 
Help in depot operations came from 
other engineers as well as from British, 
French, and Italian military units. Sev- 
eral companies of Italian soldiers were 
regularly attached to the 1st Platoon as 
mechanics, welders, carpenters, and 
laborers. Italian salvage crews repaired 
tools and equipment, manufactured 
bridge pins, and mended rubber boats. 53 

The shortage of engineer depot units 
made it impossible to open new engi- 
neer dumps as often or as rapidly as 
desirable, particularly after the May 
1944 breakout. As a result the supply 
furnished to engineer units deteriora- 
ted, and in June one platoon of the 
450th Engineer Depot Company had 
to be made available to Fifth Army. In 
August, however, the platoon reverted 
to Seventh Army, and for the next few 
months Fifth Army again had only one 
platoon for engineer depot support. 
Finally, in December 1944, MTOUSA 



53 Rpt, Engr Fifth Army, 25 Jun 44, Engineer Les- 
sons from the Italian Campaign; Hist 451sl Engr 
Depot Co, May-Dec 44. 



formed the 383d Engineer Depot Com- 
pany from the 1st Platoon, 451st, and 
men from disbanded antiaircraft units. 
Through the rest of the campaign Fifth 
Army engineer units could count on 
supply support from this company, 
aided by Italian Army troops trained 
in engineer supply procedures. 54 

Mapping and Intelligence 

Planners had estimated that Fifth 
Army would need a full topographic 
battalion, plus one topographic com- 
pany per corps, to reproduce and revise 
maps; yet there were never more than 
two topographical companies available 
at any one time. The 66th Engineer 
Topographic Company served for nine- 
teen months; the 661st served only 
eight months, mainly with VI Corps. 
Both, from time to time, had to get help 
from South African and British survey 
companies. 55 

The 66th Topographic Company was 
the American unit on which Fifth Army 
placed its chief reliance. Upon arrival 
in Italy in early October 1943, the men 
of this unit went to work revising mate- 
rial derived chiefly from aerial photo- 
graphs. Photo mosaics and detailed 
defense studies covering the projected 
attacks along the Volturno and Sacco- 
Liri Rivers were made and reproduced. 

In November the 66th was assigned 
to II Corps but continued to revise and 
reproduce maps for the Fifth Army 
Engineer Section. This company con- 
sisted of four platoons: a headquarters 
or service platoon; a survey platoon, 
which as a field unit performed the sur- 



54 Hists, 450th Engr Depot Co, May-Aug 44, and 
383d Engr Depot Co, 1944-45. 

55 Bowman comments. 



228 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



vey and control work; a photomapping 
platoon responsible for drafting as well 
as planning and revising maps; and a 
reproduction platoon responsible for 
the lithographic production of the print- 
ed sheet. In January 1944 the company 
furnished men for two provisional engi- 
neer map depot detachments, one at 
Anzio and the other on the main front. 
When the two fronts merged in May it 
was possible to establish forward and 
rear map depots, and NATOUSA for- 
mally activated the 1710th and 1712th 
Engineer Map Depot Detachments. 

The 66th Topographic Company 
moved twelve times between 5 October 
1943 and the fall of Rome in June 1944. 
Between those dates the company pro- 
cessed an average of a half million 
impressions a month. In addition to 866 
different maps, the 66th printed field 
orders, overlays showing engineer re- 
sponsibilities, road network overlays, 
defense overprints, German plans for 
Cassino defense, a monthly history of 
II Corps' operations, the disposition of 
German troops in the II Corps area, 
special maps for the commanding gen- 
eral of II Corps, special terrain studies, 
photomaps, and various posters and 
booklets. It produced a major portion 
of all the 1:100,000, 1:50,000, and 
1:25,000 maps Fifth Army units used. 
In April 1945, for the Po operation, 
the 66th produced 4,900,000 opera- 
tional maps, working around the clock 
and using cub planes to speed distribu- 
tion to units. 5b 

After the fall of Rome the 66th Topo- 
graphic Company, then the only such 
unit with Fifth Army, could not pro- 

5 " Hist 66th EngrTopo Co, 1944-45; AGF Bd Rpt 
179, NATOUSA, Notes on Mapping an Army, 16 
Aug 44. Unless otherwise cited, this section is based 
on these two sources. 



duce the required amount of work with 
its authorized personnel and equip- 
ment. The company procured addi- 
tional equipment and employed Italian 
technicians and guards, virtually becom- 
ing a topographic battalion. Using the 
Italian technicians, the company was 
able to work two shifts reproducing 
maps but could not get enough people 
for two shifts on other jobs. The com- 
pany trained its men for several differ- 
ent specialties, but the multiple responsi- 
bilities overtaxed them. 

The 1712th Detachment issued 
1,331,000 maps for the drive against 
the Gustav Line in May 1944. For the 
entire Italian campaign Fifth Army 
handled and distributed over 29,606,000 
maps. Ordinarily the corps maintained 
a stock of 500 each of all 1 :25,000 and 
1:50,000 sheets of an area and fewer 
1:100,000 and smaller scale sheets. 
When new units arrived or large orders 
came in, the maps were drawn from 
the army map depot; such orders could 
normally be filled within a day. Periods 
of relatively static warfare in the Italian 
campaign called for large-scale maps. 
Unfortunately, not enough 1:25,000- 
scale maps were available to meet the 
need, and some of those in stock were 
of dubious quality. The l:50,000-scale 
maps provided complete coverage, but 
many panels were considerably out-of- 
date and in some cases illegible. 

The combined sections of mapping 
and intelligence collected data on weath- 
er, crossing sites, defense works, obser- 
vation points, and fields of fire. When 
Lt. Col. William L. Jones joined Bow- 
man's staff in January 1944, intelligence 
became divorced from mapping, and 
Jones became chief of the Plans, Intelli- 
gence, and Training Section. This ar- 
rangement continued until September 



THE ADVANCE TO THE ALPS 



229 



1944 when Colonel Jones left to take 
command of the 235th Engineer Com- 
bat Battalion; then mapping and intelli- 
gence reconsolidated under Lt. Col. 
John G. Ladd. 57 

Information came to the section from 
many sources, including the Army Map 
Service and other agencies in the United 
States and Britain. The Intelligence 
Branch, OCE, WD, supplied a ten- 
volume work on Italy's beaches and 
ports covering such subjects as meteo- 
rological conditions and water supply. 
Many studies dealing with Italy's high- 
way bridges, railroad bridge*, and tun- 
nels originated in the Research Office, 
a subdivision of the Intelligence Branch. 
A valuable source from which the engi- 
neers derived information was a sixteen- 
volume Rockefeller Foundation work 
on malaria in Italy with specific infor- 
mation concerning the regions where 
malaria prevailed. Lessons, hints, and 
tips came from two series of publica- 
tions issued frequently during the cam- 
paign: Fifth Army Engineer Notes and 
AFHQ Intelligence Summaries. 58 

Although the Fifth Army G— 2 was 
technically the agency for collecting and 
disseminating topographic information, 
the Fifth Army staff relied on the engi- 
neer to evaluate all topographic intelli- 
gence required for planning. This sys- 
tem worked well, for by the nature of 
his work and training the engineer was 
best equipped to provide advice con- 
cerning terrain and communication 
routes. Corps and division staffs gener- 
ally expected less terrain information 
from their engineers because no ade- 



Comments, Jones, 1 Jun 59. 
58 Coll, Keith, and Rosenthal. The Corps of Engineers: 
Troops and Equipment, J pp. 457-581 II Corps Hist, an. 
A, G-2 Rpt 612. 



quate photo-interpretation organiza- 
tion existed below the army level. Engi- 
neer intelligence data seldom covered 
terrain more than one hundred miles 
in advance of the front lines. On the 
whole intelligence was adequate, for the 
rate of advance in Italy was not rapid 
enough to require greater coverage. 
The timing of engineer intelligence was 
important; information conveyed to the 
lower units too far in advance might be 
filed away and forgotten. 59 

Skilled interpretation of aerial photo- 
graphs was an important phase of engi- 
neer intelligence. Use of such photo- 
graphs, begun in the stalemate before 
Cassino, proved so valuable that by Feb- 
ruary 1944 a squadron of USAAF P- 
38s made four to ten sorties (about 350 
pictures) daily. Two engineers at the 
photo center sent all photographs with- 
in ten miles of the front forward and 
kept the rest for their own study. Peri- 
odically they also sent forward reports 
on roads, bridges, streams, and other 
features. 60 

The engineers used long-range ter- 
rain reports of the AFHQ Engineer 
Intelligence Section to plan the forward 
movement of engineer bridge supplies 
and the deployment of engineer units. 
The reports were rich sources of infor- 
mation on roads and rivers. Road infor- 
mation included width, nature of sur- 
face, embankments, demolitions, and 
suitability for mules, jeeps, or other 
transportation. River information in- 
cluded bed width, wet gap, width mea- 
sured from the tops of banks, nature 
and height of banks, levees, potential 
crossing places, approaches, needed 



m Comments, Jones, 1 Jun 59, and Paxson, May 59. 
eu Bowman comments; Hist 313th Engr C Bn, 
1944—45; II Corps Rapido Crossing, Jan— Feb 44. 



230 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS. THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



bridging equipment, fords, and practi- 
cability of bypasses. The error was sel- 
dom more than ten feet for estimated 
bridge lengths or 20 percent for bridge 
heights. Sometimes the terrain reports 
were useful in selecting bombing tar- 
gets such as a dam in the Liri valley. 
They could be used not only to esti- 
mate long-range bridging requirements 
but also to anticipate floods, pinpoint 
tank obstacles and minefields, and lo- 
cate potential main supply routes, air- 
field sites, strategic points for demoli- 
tion, and possible traffic blocks. Gen- 
eral Bowman was so impressed by the 
value of the reports that he tried repeat- 
edly to have the AFHQ Engineer Photo 
Interpretation Section made part of his 
office, but AFHQ retained control of 
the section. 61 

Camouflage 

At no time during the entire Italian 
campaign were there more than two 
companies of the 84th Engineer Cam- 
ouflage Battalion available, and after the 
middle of 1944 only one company re- 
mained with Fifth Army. Moreover, 
since in the United States camouflage 
troops had been considered noncom- 
batant, the unit, responsible for camou- 
flage supervision and inspection, con- 
sisted of limited service and older-than- 
average personnel. This policy impaired 
efficiency in view of the fact that front- 
line units had the greatest need for 
deception and disguise. In addition, the 
camouflage companies had neither 
enough training in tactical camouflage 
nor enough transportation to move the 



Comments, Bowman, Jones, and Armogida. 



large amount of materials and equip- 
ment required. 62 

In spite of these handicaps engineers 
did some excellent work with dummies, 
paint, nets, and other materials. Some- 
times road screens and dummies con- 
fused and diverted enemy artillery post- 
ed in the hills. For example, early in 
the campaign, troops of the 337th Engi- 
neer General Service Regiment erected 
a series of structures made from nine 
30-by-30-foot nets, along a 220-foot 
stretch of road near the Volturno. This 
section had been subject to observation 
and shelling, but after the erection of 
the road screen the shelling stopped. 63 

Road screens were the main device 
in camouflage operations. As a rule the 
engineers used a double thickness of 
garnished net, but the best type of net 
for all purposes remained an unsettled 
question. Engineers of the 84th Battal- 
ion preferred shrimp nets to garnished 
twine, yet the 15th Army Group engi- 
neer concluded at the close of hostili- 
ties that the shrimp nets had not been 
dense enough to obscure properly. 
Pregarnished fish nets had the same 
defect. None of the nets was sufficiendy 
durable or fire resistant. And as snow 
fell in December 1944, no white camou- 
flage materials were available. 64 

The most ambitious operational cam- 
ouflage programs of the Italian cam- 
paign took place during preparations 
to attack the Gothic Line. Engineers 



62 Hists, 84th Engr Camouflage Bn, 14 Apr 43-Jul 
44, and Co A, 84th Engr Camouflage Bn, 1944; Coll, 
Keith, and R osenthal, The Corps of Engineers: Troops 
and Equipmml ip. 222] Comments, Elliott, 18 Mar 60. 

63 Engr Tech Bull 19, Rpt on Volturno River Bridge 
at Cancello, 17 May 44; and 29, Camouflage, 5 Apr 
45; IV Corps Opns Rpt, Aug 44. 

M AGF Bd Rpt 279, MTO, 24 Jan 45; Killian com- 
ments. 



THE ADVANCE TO THE ALPS 



231 



made every effort to conceal the II 
Corps buildup in the Empoli-Florence 
area and to simulate strength on the 
left flank in IV Corps' Pontedera sector. 
Among the devices employed were dum- 
my bridges over canals and streams and 
smoke to make the enemy believe that 
heavy traffic was moving over the dum- 
my bridges. One dummy bridge at a 
canal southwest of Pisa drew heavy fire 
for two hours. 65 In October 1944 in the 
IV Corps area, engineers raised a screen 
to enable them to build a 120-foot float- 
ing treadway across the Serchio during 
the daytime. During the same month 
Company D of the 84th Camouflage 
Battalion erected a screen 300 feet long 
to conceal all movement across a pon- 
ton bridge that lay under direct enemy 
observation. The engineers put up a 
forty-foot tripod on each bank of the 
river, used holdfasts to secure cables, 
and raised the screen with a 3/4-ton 
weapons carrier winch and block and 
tackle. In November a bridge over the 
Reno River at Silla, also exposed to 
enemy observation, was screened in a 
similar fashion. Here the engineers 
used houses on the two riverbanks as 
holdfasts. 66 

Engineers set up dummy targets at 
bridge sites, river crossings, airstrips, 
and at various other locations, building 
them in such shapes as artillery pieces, 
tanks, bridges, and aircraft. They were 
used to draw enemy fire to evaluate its 
volume and origin. They also served to 
conceal weakness at certain points, to 
permit the withdrawal of strong ele- 



hS IV Corps Opns Rpt, Aug 44; Killian comments. 
66 IV Corps Opns Rpt, Oct 44; Engineer History, Medi- 
terranean, p. 211. 



ments, and to conceal buildups. When 
a shortage of dummy material devel- 
oped in January 1945, planners looked 
upon it as a serious handicap to tactical 
operations. 67 

Dummies and disguises took many 
forms. Large oil storage tanks became 
houses. Company D used spun glass to 
blend corps and division artillery with 
surrounding snow. The engineers used 
painted shelter halfs and nets with 
bleached garlands to disguise gun posi- 
tions, ammunition pits, parapets, and 
other emplacements. Camouflage proved 
valuable enough in many instances to 
indicate that its wider application could 
have resulted in lower casualties and 
easier troop movements. 68 

Behind Fifth Army in Italy, a mas- 
sive work of reconstruction continued 
as divisions moved forward against a 
slowly retreating enemy. In the zones 
around the major ports on the western 
side of the peninsula and on the routes 
of supply to the army's rear area, the 
base section made its own contribution 
to the war. Suffering many of the same 
strictures and shortages as Fifth Army 
engineers, the Peninsular Base Section 
Engineer Service carried its own respon- 
sibilities, guaranteeing the smooth trans- 
fer of men and material from dockside 
to fighting front. A host of supporting 
functions also fell to the engineer in 
the base section, often taxing strength 
and ingenuity to the same degree as 
among the combat elements. 



87 Hist Co A, 84th Engr Camouflage Bn; Comments, 
Bowman and Elliott, 18 Mar 60. 

B8 IV Corps Opns Rpt, Feb 45; Engineer History, Medi- 
terranean, pp. 211 — 12. 



CHAPTER XI 



Engineers in the Peninsular 
Base Section 



The support organization behind 
Fifth Army grew from an embryonic 
planning group before the invasion of 
Italy to an entity of corporate size. Its 
functions were more varied than those 
in the combat zones and as important; 
it had management responsibility under 
Brig. Gen. Arthur W. Pence, an engi- 
neer officer, for combat supply and for 
requisitioning or foraging materiel for 
its own wide-ranging projects. Specialty 
units abounded in the base section 
enclaves. Through the end of the war, 
engineers were the largest single seg- 
ment in the Peninsular Base Section 
(PBS) command. 1 

The main task of the PBS engineers 
in late 1943 remained the rehabilita- 
tion of the port of Naples. Their work 
at the docks helped Naples to become 
one of the busiest ports in the world. 



' Except where otherwise noted, this chapter is based 
on the following: PBS Engr Hist, pt. I, 1943-45, sec. 
I, Chronological Summary; Meyer, Strategy and 
Logistical History: MTO, ch. XIX, pp. 1-44. See also: 
Ltr, Pence to Truesdell, 26 Nov 43, sub: Organiza- 
tion of PBS; Periodic Rpt, SOS NATOUSA, G-4, 31 
Dec 43; Brig. C. J.C. Molony, "The Campaign in Sicily 
1943 and The Campaign in Italy 3rd September 1943 
to 31st March 1944," vol. V, The Mediterranean and 
Middle East, in the series "History of the Second World 
War" (London: HMSO, 1973), pp. 398-413. 



They provided depots for receiving 
supplies and road, railroad, and pipe- 
line facilities for moving supplies. They 
improved highways serving PBS depots 
and Fifth Army supply dumps to han- 
dle heavy traffic, built pipelines to carry 
thousands of gallons of gasoline from 
Naples to pipeheads within range of 
enemy artillery, and established rail- 
heads in Fifth Army territory by recon- 
structing some of the worst damaged 
lines of the war. Behind the army boun- 
dary PBS engineers also built hospitals, 
rest camps, repair shops, and other 
facilities. 

On 7 November 1943, five weeks 
after Naples fell, one-third of the 31,629 
American troops assigned or attached 
to PBS were engineers. The PBS Engi- 
neer Service had at its disposal 19 engi- 
neer units: 2 combat regiments, 2 gen- 
eral service regiments, 2 separate bat- 
talions, and 13 units of company size 
or less, including the headquarters of a 
port construction and repair group, a 
petroleum distribution company, a spe- 
cial utilities company, a water supply 
company, 2 fire-fighting platoons, 2 
mobile searchlight maintenance units, 
a 3-man engineer mobile petroleum 
laboratory, and a map depot detach- 
ment. By early January 1944 the PBS 



ENGINEERS IN THE PENINSULAR BASE SECTION 



233 



Engineer Service alone had twenty- 
eight units totaling 10,464 men. 2 

When preparations for the invasion 
of southern France (ANVIL) got un- 
der way in early 1 944, there were not 
enough engineer troops to support the 
operation. The accompanying French 
invasion forces would need American 
help. A Fifth Army breakout, expected 
in the spring, meant that ANVIL would 
take place when the demand for engi- 
neer troops in Italy was at a peak. Of 
eighteen engineer combat battalions 
required for ANVIL, the .French could 
furnish two and the U.S. Army eight 
trained in shore operations. The inva- 
sion would also need eight engineer 
general service regiments; PBS and 
Fifth Army, each with five, would both 
have to give up two. Shortages in engi- 
neer map depot detachments also ex- 
isted. The only port construction and 
repair group in the theater, the 1051st, 
would be needed at Marseille and was 
allocated to ANVIL; this meant PBS 
would have to reopen Leghorn with- 
out experienced port specialists. ANVIL 
would need three pipeline companies, 
two of which were to come from out- 
side the theater. 3 

The loss of engineers to ANVIL forced 
the PBS engineer, Col. Donald S. Burns, 
to use more Italian troops and civilians. 
By early October 1944 he was employ- 
ing 10,000 men from Italian military 
engineer units and about 5,177 civil- 



2 Station List, HQ, PBS, 7 Nov 43; Rpt, HQ, PBS, to 
CG, SOS NATOUSA, 15 Jan 44, sub: Rpt on Disposi- 
tion of Engr Units, app. VIII B to Rpt of the Engr 
PBS. 

s Estimate of Engr Troop Situation, Engr Sect (U.S.) 
AFHQ, 14 Feb 44; Ltr, Chf Engr, PBS, to G-4, 
AFHQ, 3 Jun 44, sub: Engr Troop Requirements, 
NATOUSA; PBS Periodic G-3 Rpt 8, Jun 44; 10, 
Aug 44; and 1 1, Sep 44, 319.1 PBS files. 



ians; but these numbers dropped where 
new base section installations in Leg- 
horn took shape. About 9,700 Ameri- 
can engineers were in PBS after ANVIL, 
and by the end of the campaign in Italy 
PBS engineer strength had increased 
to some 10,200. 4 

When Fifth Army stalled before Ger- 
man defenses along the Garigliano and 
Rapido Rivers during the winter of 
1943—44, PBS engineers were able to 
provide close support no longer feasi- 
ble when the army broke loose in May 
1944. In two months Fifth Army drove 
to the Arno, a distance of 250 miles, 
and PBS support deteriorated steadily. 
The Germans blew many railroad brid- 
ges and culverts as they retreated, and 
PBS engineers could not repair them 
at the pace the troops were moving. 
Nor were petroleum engineers able to 
build gasoline pipelines at the fifteen- 
mile-a-day pace the army sometimes 
achieved. Thus the main burden of sup- 
plying Fifth Army fell to motor trans- 
port, which soon began to falter under 
increasingly longer hauls, bottlenecks 
in hastily repaired roads, and break- 
downs. 

As Fifth Army drew up to the Arno 
at the end of July 1944, it was in no 
condition to assail the Gothic Line. Men 
were tired and equipment worn after 
the long sweep from the Rapido. The 
army's strength was depleted by the 
withdrawal of units for ANVIL, and its 
supply lines were stretched thin. Before 
it could drive for the Po valley, Fifth 
Army needed time to rest, to repair and 



4 PBS Engr Hist, pt. I, 1943-45, sec. II, app. II, 
showing engineer units in PBS on various dates, and 
their strengths. PBS Periodic G-3 Rpt 11, Sep 44; 
Memo, Engr Service, PBS (Col D. S. Burns), for Col 
Oxx, 3 Oct 44, Procurement Action Rpts, PBS files. 



234 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



replenish equipment, and to establish a 
firm supply base in northern Italy. 

The logical place was Leghorn, 300 
miles north of Naples, a port with a 
man-made harbor that could accommo- 
date ships drawing up to twenty-eight 
feet of water. The Germans (with con- 
siderable assistance from Allied bomb- 
ers) had so wrecked the port that a 
month's work would be required before 
deep draft vessels could enter, but as 
soon as the harbor was open to ship- 
ping it became the main supply base 
for Fifth Army. To oversee the work 
there and at the same time look after 
American installations in the Naples 
area, Headquarters, PBS, divided into 
two groups. The one in Leghorn came 
to be known as PBS (Main); the other 
in Naples was designated Pensouth and 
operated as a district under the larger 
headquarters at Leghorn. 

Port Rehabilitation 

Restoring Italian ports after Novem- 
ber 1943 was a battle of supply and 
demand complicated by the fact that 
supply tonnages for combat units had 
higher priority than those for rebuild- 
ing the ports. As Naples began func- 
tioning again it imported an average of 
10,700 tons per day, well above its pre- 
war capacity, but the engineers still had 
to forage locally for materiel to expand 
facilities. At Bagnoli they located sub- 
stantial stocks of steel sections, with- 
out which they could never have built 
ramps for the Liberty ships. Railroad 
track and torpedo netting also came 
from local sources, and combat engi- 
neers supplemented the American for- 
estry units in cutting and milling tim- 
ber at Cosenza for the quays in Naples 
harbor. For piling the engineers welded 



together locally procured ten-inch di- 
ameter pipes and filled them with con- 
crete. Wood and prefabricated steel 
structural members were always in short 
supply. 5 

Even with the shortages of materiel, 
AFHQ steadily revised upward the 
planned port capacity goals for the city. 
In the beginning of January 1944 the 
1051st Port Construction and Repair 
Group had orders to build twenty-six 
temporary LST berths, but the demand 
increased piecemeal and by month's 
end the unit had constructed thirty-five 
berths with still more to come. At that 
time, when accumulated unloading at 
Naples and the satellite ports to the 
north had passed the million-ton level, 
the revised program called for over 35 
Liberty berths, 3 troopship spaces, and 
4 smaller berths for coasters. Port ca- 
pacity increased through the spring, 
and in one record day in April 33,750 
tons of cargo came ashore. With the 
May offensive, Fifth Army was draw- 
ing on the massed stocks that had piled 
up in beach dumps at Anzio, particu- 
larly during the breakout offensive of 
1944. 1 (MapTTf 

With Fifth Army's advance, Peninsu- 
lar Base Section acquired additional 
ports, but they were usually damaged 
severely. Rome fell on 4 June, Civita- 
vecchia three days later, Piombino on 
25 June, and Leghorn on 19 July. At 
Civitavecchia, the first seaport north of 
Anzio potentially useful to the Allies, 



5 NATOUSA Statistical Summary 8, 319.1 (MTO) 
OCE files; Wakeman et al., Rpt on Rehabilitation of 
Naples and Other Captured Ports, 28 Nov 43; Col 
Ewart G. Plant et al., Rpt on Peninsular Base Section, 
10 Feb 44, in OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 2, Operational 
Planning. 

6 PBS, Public Relations Sect, ToobofWar, pp. 13-23; 
Plant, Rpt on PBS, 10 Feb 44. 




MAP 11 




the 540th Engineer Combat Regiment 
forged through the heavy wreckage to 
open DUKW and landing craft hard- 
stands. On 1 1 June the first cargo craft, 
an LCT, unloaded; next day an LST 
nosed into a berth, and ferry craft 
began to unload Liberty ships. Cargo 
was soon coming ashore at the rate of 
3,000 tons a day. Later the 1051st Port 
Construction and Repair Group pro- 
vided Liberty berths by building ramps 
across sunken ships as at Naples. 7 

Even while improvements were un- 
der way at Civitavecchia, a new entry 

* PBS Engr Hist, pt. I, sec. II, app. IV; Fifth Army 
Engr Hist, vol. I, pp. 130, 142; War Diary, AFHQ 
Engr Sect, Entry 9 Aug 44; Fifth Army History, vol. VI, 
pp. 7. 9, 22, 115. 



for Fifth Army supplies opened 100 
miles farther north at Piombino, a small 
port on a peninsula opposite the island 
of Elba. Elements of both the 39th and 
540th Engineer Combat Regiments re- 
opened the port, which, like Civita- 
vecchia, had suffered heavy bomb dam- 
age. The main pier lay under a mass of 
twisted steel from demolished gantry 
cranes and other wreckage, while de- 
stroyed buildings and railroad equip- 
ment cluttered the area. But the engi- 
neers did not find the profusion of 
mines and booby traps the retreating 
Germans usually left behind, and they 
were able to remove 5,000 tons of scrap 
steel and pig iron from the main piers 
during the first two days. Pier ribbing 



ENGINEERS IN THE PENINSULAR BASE SECTION 



237 



and flooring repair required consider- 
able underwater work. After three days 
facilities for LCTs to dock head on were 
available and one alongside berth was 
ready to receive a coaster; within the 
next few days hardstands for LCTs, 
LSTs, and DUKWs were available; and 
at the end of the third week the engi- 
neers built a pier over a sunken ship to 
provide berths for two Liberty ships. 
Piombino joined Civitavecchia as a main 
artery of supply for Fifth Army during 
July and August 1944. 8 

After the summer offensive, Fifth 
Army needed Leghorn to support an 
attack against prepared defenses in the 
rugged northern Apennines. Early in 
July, when Fifth Army was still about 
18 miles south of Leghorn, PBS selected 
the 338th Engineer General Service 
Regiment to rehabilitate the port. The 
338th, which had been working on hos- 
pitals in Rome, had no experience in 
port repair but received planning aid 
from several specialists of the 1051st 
Group, representatives of the British 
Navy charged with clearing the waters 
of Leghorn harbor, and shipowners 
and contractors who knew the port. 
The reinforced engineer regiment was 
not only to repair ship berths but also 
to be PBS's engineer task force in the 
city. The 1528th Engineer Dump Truck 
Company and an Italian engineer con- 
struction battalion were attached to the 
task force, and PBS made preparations 
to provide the force with a large amount 
of angledozers, cranes, a derrick, and 
other, heavy construction equipment. 
Much of this equipment was to move to 
Leghorn aboard an LST, an LCT, and 



8 Fifth Army History, vol. VI, pp. 53, 115-16; Hists, 
540th Engr C Rgt, 1942-45, and 39th Engr C Rgt, 
Jun— Dec 44. 



several barges, but general cargo was 
to be discharged directly from Liberty 
ships. 9 

Early on the morning of 19 July, Leg- 
horn fell to elements of the 34th Infan- 
try Division. Twelve men from the 
338th Engineers arrived in the city a 
few hours later to clear mines from pre- 
determined routes into the port area. 
Leghorn was heavily mined, and for 
the first few days little other than mine 
clearing could be accomplished. As the 
mine-clearing teams made room, more 
elements of the 338th Engineers ar- 
rived, set up quarters, and began pre- 
paring a berth for the LST and the 
LCT carrying construction equipment. 
By 26 July both craft had unloaded. In 
the meantime, engineers repaired elec- 
trical lines and started to restore the 
municipal water system. 

Not until 28 July were engineer and 
naval officers able to complete a survey 
of conditions in Leghorn harbor. They 
were soon convinced that reopening 
Leghorn would be a much more formi- 
dable job than Naples had been. At 
Naples the Germans had not blocked 
the harbor entrances, but in Leghorn 
sunken ships completely blocked en- 
trances to all but shallow-draft craft. In 
each channel the hulks were so inter- 
locked that no single ship could be 
floated and swung aside to make a 
passage. Ultimately the engineers had 
to spend nearly a month blasting a pas- 
sage through the blockships. 

The stone quays were pocked by 
craters, some forty feet in diameter, and 
not one of the eighty-two berthing 
spaces was untouched. Elsewhere in the 



9 This account of the rehabilitation of Leghorn is 
based on Hist 338th Engr OS Rgt, Sep 42 -Nov 44, as 
well as PBS Engr Hist, pt. I, 1943-45, Chronological 
Summary. 



238 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



port area the enemy's work was almost 
as devastating. Port equipment and 
buildings were demolished; roads, rail- 
roads, and open spaces between roads 
were cratered; and every important 
bridge leading out of the port was 
destroyed. 

The threat of sea mines in the har- 
bor delayed the unloading of engineer 
equipment and construction materials. 
A floating pile driver and three barges 
loaded with piling, timber, and deck- 
ing arrived at Leghorn on 30 July but 
could not enter the harbor until late on 
2 August. The next day engineers be- 
gan rigging the floating pile driver and 
a 1 1/2-yard crane, also to be used as a 
pile driver. Port and depot traffic pat- 
terns were also developing. The Ital- 
ians had handled freight directly from 
wharfside to rail, so few of their piers 
were hard surfaced. But Allied military 
cargo had to be moved by truck, and to 
provide the large quantities of rock 
needed for surfacing the engineers set 
up a rock crusher to pulverize rubble 
from shell-torn buildings and opened 
a quarry nearby. By November the 
338th Engineers had eight quarries in 
operation. 

While the 2d Battalion, 338th Engi- 
neers, worked on roads in the area, the 
1st Battalion began to build berths for 
Liberty ships and the 696th Engineer 
Petroleum Distribution Company re- 
stored pipelines from a tanker berth to 
local tank farms. Pile-driving for the 
first Liberty berths started on 5 August, 
and four were ready by the seventeenth. 
Three days later, after British naval 
demolition teams had forced a passage 
into the harbor, the Liberty ship Sedge- 
wick came into the port with piling that 
enabled the engineers to complete two 
additional berths. The six Liberty 



berths then available gave the port a 
daily capacity of about 5,000 tons. 

The goal for Leghorn was to reach a 
capacity of 12,000 tons a day by the 
end of September. The port achieved 
that goal on the twenty-fifth after a 
ramp the engineers built from a sunken 
tanker to the shore provided additional 
Liberty ship berths and after landing 
craft returned from the ANVIL opera- 
tion. By that time Leghorn was the main 
supply port for Fifth Army, and Civita- 
vecchia and Piombino had closed. 

Petroleum: From Tanker to Truck 

At ports along the Italian coast, PBS 
engineers had to devote considerable 
attention to unloading and distributing 
petroleum products, which accounted 
for nearly half the tonnage the Allies 
shipped into the Mediterranean the- 
ater. The engineers were responsible 
for building, and in most cases operat- 
ing, not only tanker discharge facilities 
and port terminal storage but also pipe- 
lines that carried the POL to dispens- 
ing and refueling stations in the Fifth 
Army area. At the dispensing points 
quartermaster units operated canning 
installations, and they usually took over 
truck refueling points. In early planning 
for the discharge of oil tankers the PBS 
engineers had counted on using Civi- 
tavecchia, the first port north of Naples 
capable of receiving tankers. These 
plans were revised after the capture of 
San Stefano, forty miles north of Civi- 
tavecchia, where, on a spit of land con- 
nected to the mainland by a causeway, 
were located a tanker berth and large 
underground storage facilities. 10 San 



10 Ltr, Capt R. H. Wood, Supply and Construction 
Sect, to AFHQ Engr Sect, 9 Aug 44, sub: Rpt on Trip 
to Fifth Army Hqs; PBS Engr Hist, pt. I, pp. 49-50. 



ENGINEERS IN THE PENINSULAR BASE SECTION 



239 



Stefano, along with Naples and Leg- 
horn, became a major terminal for POL 
supplies. Three of the six pipeline sys- 
tems built in Italy emanated from Na- 
ples, two from San Stefano, and one 
from Leghorn.' 1 

By 18 November 1943, engineers of 
the 696th Petroleum Distribution Com- 
pany had 574,000 barrels of storage 
space at Naples ready for motor and 
aviation gasoline and nearly 55,000 bar- 
rels for diesel oil. Another quarter of a 
million barrels of underground storage, 
found relatively undamaged at Pozzuoli, 
was cleaned and used to store Navy fuel 
oil. 12 While part of the 696th — along 
with as many as 550 civilian workers — 
was rehabilitating the Naples terminal, 
the rest of the unit built a four-inch 
gasoline pipeline into the Fifth Army 
area. The pipeline originated on the 
outskirts of Naples at a Socony refin- 
ery arid followed Highway 6 northward. 
The twelve-mile section to Fertilia be- 
came operational on 12 November, but 
thereafter fall rains and gusty winds 
slowed construction. Since it was appar- 
ent from the beginning that one four- 
inch pipeline would be inadequate for 
Fifth Army's needs, petroleum engi- 
neers had to prepare to construct a sec- 
ond pipeline by putting double cross- 
ings under roads and over streams and 
canals. The most difficult crossing was 
over the Volturno River, a 400-foot 
gap. Petroleum engineers prepared a 



1 1 Unless otherwise noted this section is based on 
Operational Rpt, Receipt, Storage and Distribution of 
Bulk Petroleum in West Italy, 3 Oct 43-15 Oct 45, 
prepared for PBS by 407th Engr Service, 15 Oct 45, 
670.11, Pipeline History 1944-45, NATOUSA Files. 
See also Pipeline Rpt, Petroleum Branch, Engr Service, 
PBS, 1 Mar 44, 670.11, Pipeline History 1944-45, 
NATOUSA files. 

' 2 See |cTTTTiri 



suspension crossing over the Volturno, 
using two existing high tension electric 
line towers for supports, but flood 
waters knocked the line out soon after 
it was finished. Engineers repaired the 
break and also prepared another emer- 
gency line on an old railroad bridge 2 
1/2 miles upstream. 13 

Early in December 1943 the 705th 
Engineer Petroleum Distribution Com- 
pany joined the 696th on pipeline work 
in the Naples area, taking over opera- 
tion of the port terminal and of pipe- 
lines as far as the Volturno. By 22 
December two four-inch pipelines with 
a daily capacity of 260,000 gallons were 
in operation to Calvi Risorta, twenty- 
eight miles north of Naples. In Janu- 
ary engineers extended these lines to 
San Felice, nearly forty-one miles from 
Naples, then on to San Vittore where a 
dispensing point was set up only 2 1/2 
miles from embattled Cassino. A third 
four-inch pipeline followed as far as 
Calvi Risorta, then turned east along 
Highway 7 for over twelve miles. On 
27 March 1944, the 696th, with the help 
of a French POL unit, opened a for- 
ward fueling point on this line at Sessa. 
Both forward fueling points were with- 
in range of enemy artillery, but engi- 
neers of the 396th Engineer Camou- 
flage Company concealed them and 
they were never shelled. 14 

Before the spring offensive began in 
late May 1944, petroleum engineers 
assembled more than one hundred 
miles of six-inch pipe (which could 



13 PBS Engr Hist, pt. I, 1943-45, sec. IV, West Italy 
Pipelines; Hist 705th Engr Pet Dist Co, Apr 45. 

™ Hist 705th Engr Pet Dist Co, Apr 45; Fifth Army 
History, vol. Ill, pp. 69 — 70; Distances used are those 
given in Pipeline Operations Rpts, PBS, 21 Jul 44-20 
Aug 44, and 21 Apr 44—20 May 44; and Operational 
Rpt, Pipeline Dispensing, 1944—45. 



240 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



deliver as much gasoline as two four- 
inch pipelines) at forward points on 
Highways 6 and 7, to be used between 
Calvi Risorta and Rome. A third engi- 
neer petroleum distribution company, 
the 785th, arrived from the United 
States during April and went to work 
on a four-inch pipeline along Highway 
7 while the 696th was laying a six-inch 
line along Highway 6. The 705th was 
to operate the pipeline system. 15 

As Fifth Army pressed forward dur- 
ing June and July, sometimes as much 
as fifteen miles a day, it left the pipe- 
heads ever farther behind. By the time 
the pipeline reached Rome on 7 July, 
Fifth Army was nearing Leghorn and 
San Stefano had fallen. The 785th Engi- 
neer Petroleum Distribution Company 
reached San Stefano on 24 June, and 
five days later a tanker was discharging 
80,000 barrels of motor gas at the new 
terminal. By 2 July the 785th had built 
ten miles of six-inch pipeline inland, 
for only fifty miles away tanks and 
trucks were running dry. The 785th 
expanded the San Stefano system to 
cover 143 miles, and for some time to 
come it was the main source of motor 
fuel for Fifth Army. 16 

At Leghorn, captured on 19 July, the 
port was so heavily damaged and Ger- 
man shell fire so persistent that no 
tanker could enter until 18 September. 
The 696th Engineer Petroleum Distri- 
bution Company, which set up bivouac 
at a Leghorn refinery, soon found that 
only 25 percent of the tankage in the 
area was repairable. At the port all 



,r ' Hist 696th Engr Pet Dist Co, May-Sep 44; War 
Diary, AFHQ Engr Sect, Tun 44; Hist 705th Engr Pet 
Dist Co, Apr 45. 

lti Ltr, Wood to AFHQ Engr Sect, 9 Aug 44, sub: 
Rpt on Trip to Fifth Army Hqs; PBS Engr Hist, pt. I, 
1943—45, sec. I, Chronological Summary, pp. 49—50. 



tanker discharge lines were wrecked, 
but a tanker berth about 1 1/2 miles 
from the refinery was still in good 
condition. The 696th, recruiting about 
one hundred civilian workers, set about 
repairing storage tanks at the refinery 
while a French petroleum unit worked 
on storage facilities at a nearby tank 
farm. By 10 August the 696th had 
restored a large amount of storage and 
had completed a discharge line from 
the tanker berth. When the first tanker 
entered the port, storage was ready for 
nearly 275,000 barrels of gasoline. Even- 
tually, the Leghorn POL terminal had 
facilities for 62,000 barrels of 100- 
octane gasoline, 307,000 barrels of 80- 
octane, 43,500 barrels of lower octane 
for civilian use, 76,100 barrels of diesel 
oil, and 34,500 barrels of kerosene. In 
all, the engineers rehabilitated thirty- 
two storage tanks. 

Early in September Fifth Army struck 
north across the Arno, coordinating 
its attack with an Eighth Army offen- 
sive along the Adriatic coast, and by 
the end of the month Fifth Army troops 
were only fourteen miles from Bologna. 
October found forward units only nine 
miles from the Po valley, but for the 
next few months the army had to use 
nearly all its resources just to survive 
the northern Apennine winter. Gaso- 
line issues to Fifth Army troops contin- 
ued heavy through the winter, averag- 
ing 357,000 gallons a day between No- 
vember 1944 and April 1945. Much of 
it went to warm troops at gasoline stoves 
in the mountains some ninety miles 
from Leghorn. 

In late September the 696th left for 
southern France, and the 703d Engi- 
neer Petroleum Distribution Company, 
relieved from a Highway 2 project, took 
over both the operation of the Leghorn 



ENGINEERS IN THE PENINSULAR BASE SECTION 



241 



terminal and the construction of pipe- 
lines in the wake of Fifth Army. As soon 
as Fifth Army began to move, the 703d 
pushed pipeline construction and by 
the end of October had a double four- 
inch line in operation to Sesto, thirty- 
six miles farther. By mid-December the 
703d had carried the line to Loiano, 
over eighty-one miles beyond Leghorn. 
For the last ten miles snow, mud, and 
water got into the line and froze solid 
in low spots before the line could be 
tested. 

In mid-December 1944 engineer pe- 
troleum companies were spread over 
450 miles. The Petroleum Section of 
the Engineer Service, PBS, exercised 
direct control over the units but was 
finding this more and more difficult. 
On 25 December 1944, the section acti- 
vated the 407th Engineer Service Bat- 
talion according to TOE 5—500, draw- 
ing most of the personnel from an 
engineer utilities detachment. The bat- 
talion was a skeleton headquarters that 
could supervise a number of indepen- 
dently operating units and coordinate 
operation and construction activities. 
All troops on POL work in western Italy 
(three American and one Italian engi- 
neer petroleum distribution company 
and two battalions of other Italian troops 
for security and labor work) came under 
the 407th. This move not only relieved 
the Petroleum Section but also made 
for better supply, planning, and main- 
tenance support for engineer pipeline 
units. The battalion set up a major 
maintenance shop in Leghorn and, in 
February 1945, a smaller one in Naples 
for third echelon and higher mainte- 
nance and repair of POL equipment. 17 



17 AMO(LtColBeddow) 1945, Work Sheets of Engr 
AMO Survey Team, 10 May 45; Ltr, Lt Col E. P. 
Streck, Actg Engr Ofcr, PBS, to all Branch Chfs, Engr 



When the spring offensive began in 
1945, the 785th Petroleum Distribution 
Company, along with a hundred Ital- 
ian troops, stood ready to lay a double 
line up Highway 65 from Loiano to 
Bologna, twenty-two miles away. The 
work got under way on 24 April 1945, 
but, plagued with traffic congestion on 
the highway and the multitude of mines 
in the area, was not finished until 7 
May. 

The greatest handicap to efficient 
pipeline operations was the telephone 
system. Standard issue telephones were 
totally inadequate; the wire was of such 
low conductivity that messages travel- 
ing farther than twelve miles had to be 
relayed, a process that caused such 
delays and confusion that the PBS engi- 
neer asked the PBS Signal Section to 
provide a communication system solely 
for pipelines. The system helped, but 
did not solve the problems. Conversa- 
tion between Leghorn and Bologna was 
impossible, and only clear weather and 
shouting permitted Sesto to converse 
with either Leghorn or Bologna. 

Deliberate sabotage of pipelines was 
negligible, but civilian theft of petro- 
leum products was a constant problem. 
In one thirty-day period, pipeline losses 
near Rome averaged three hundred 
barrels a day. Usually thieves loosened 
couplings, though in some cases they 
knocked holes into pipe. Breaks on long 
downhill stretches, where leaks could 
not be detected by a drop in pressure, 
were especially costly. One such break 
occurred a few miles south of Bologna, 
at the bottom of a 32-mile grade. Some- 
one carelessly lighted a cigarette near 
the spilled gas. Eight civilians died in 



Service, Pensouth, 10 Mar 45, sub: Deputy Theater 
Commanders' Conf (6 Mar 45), NATOUSA file, Conf, 
Deputy Theater Commander. 



242 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



the ensuing holocaust, which also broke 
two other lines. An estimated 12,000 
gallons of gasoline were lost. Leaks 
caused by tension failures on couplings 
that thieves had loosened kept repair 
crews busy. Patrolling Italian soldiers 
and even horse-mounted GIs did not 
stop the tampering. Italian courts treat- 
ed the few thieves who were caught 
quite leniently, and American authori- 
ties sometimes had to pressure the Ital- 
ians to prosecute such cases. 18 

Tasks of Base Section Engineers 

Base section engi neers drew a multi- 
tude of assignments. (Map 12) Many of 
them were calls for a few men to sweep 
mines, clear away debris, or repair 
plumbing. Others' tasks were larger. 
The ninety-five work orders the 345th 
Engineer General Service Regiment 
handled in August 1944 ranged from 
repairing a water faucet at Villa Maria 
(the General Officers Rest Camp in 
Naples) to installing 225 pieces of equip- 
ment for a huge quartermaster laun- 
dry and dry cleaning plant at Bagnoli. 
This unit was the first base section engi- 
neer construction organization in Na- 
ples. Its early assignments included set- 
ting up an engineer and a quartermas- 
ter depot, repairing railroads, building 
POW camps, and working on the Serino 
aqueduct. The 345th was also responsi- 
ble for all street and sewer repair in 
Naples, although civilians did the actual 
work. 19 

18 Ltrs, HQ, 705th Engr Pet Dist Co, to Engr, Engr 
Service, Pensouth, various dates, sub: Loss of Gaso- 
line on the Naples-Rome, Italy, Pipeline, PBS file, 
Loss of Gas on Naples-Rome PPL 1944-45; NATO- 
USA Statistical Summary 10, 1 Jan 44, 319.1 (MTO), 
OCE file. 

1 9 Unless otherwise cited this section is based on Engr 
Service, PBS, Work Accomplished, and the histories 
of the units mentioned. 



Railway repair was an unexpected task. 
In Avalanche planning the Transpor- 
tation Corps' Military Railway Service 
(MRS), with help from the Italians, was 
expected to handle railroad rehabilita- 
tion and engineers were to be responsi- 
ble only for new rail construction — 
mainly spurs into dumps and depots. 20 
But the rail net was so badly damaged 
and the Italian railroad agencies so dis- 
organized that MRS had to ask the engi- 
neers for help. Most of the work fell to 
the 94th Engineer General Service Reg- 
iment, which arrived in Naples the sec- 
ond week of October 1943 and started 
rehabilitating lines to the Aversa rail- 
head even before their vehicles and 
equipment were ashore. 21 

Supplies for track reconstruction had 
to be cannibalized. For example, to 
repair one lane of double-track lines 
the engineers used rails, ties, and fish 
plates from the other track. They also 
gathered material, as well as frogs and 
switches, from railway yards and unes- 
sential spur lines. Sometimes engineers 
could stockpile items, but because the 
Germans had destroyed many of the 
frogs and switches they were scarce. 
Luckily, a large stock of unused rails 
turned up in Naples. For bridging the 
engineers used steel salvaged from de- 
stroyed spans and from a steel mill at 
Bagnoli. However, they also needed 
timber. Railroad bridging supplies re- 
mained short, and in many instances 



ia Wakeman et al., Rpt on Rehabilitation of Naples 
and other Captured Ports, 28 Nov 43; Extracts from 
Rpt on Peninsular Base Section, NATOUSA, 10 Feb 
44, sec. VIII, Engr Service. 

21 Hist of PBS, Phases II and III, 28 Aug43-3Jan 
44; Rpt, Functions of the Base Engr, prepared by 
PBS Engr, 25 Oct 43, 381 NATOUSA file; Extracts 
from Rpt on PBS, NATOUSA, 10 Feb 44, sec. VIII, 
Engr Service. 




MAP 12 



244 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



the engineers had to resort to culverts 
topped by huge earth fills. 22 

By the end of November 1943 the 
rail reached Capua and before the spring 
offensive stretched to Mignano, less 
than ten miles south of Cassino. The 
closest yet built to combat lines, the rail- 
head was within range of German 270- 
mm. artillery. Early in June 1944 the 
94th Engineers began the largest sin- 
gle railroad repair assignment in Italy, 
reopening a 32-mile stretch from Monte 
San Biagio station to Cisterna station 
on the main coastal line to Rome. The 
main block was the 4 1/2-mile Monte 
Orso tunnel, blown in three places, a 
few miles out of San Biagio. The south 
portal was blocked partially and the 
north portal completely, but the main 
obstruction was deep inside the moun- 
tain. These engineers worked with air 
hammers and explosives, cutting a pas- 
sage by breaking up large rocks and 
carting off the debris on a small indus- 
trial railway installed for the purpose. 
The work was slow at best, but toward 
the end of June a front-end loader 
mounted on a D— 4 tractor more than 
doubled the removal capacity. 

The engineers relied on a natural 
draft to carry off fumes from genera- 
tor engines that supplied power for 
lighting and for air compressors, but 
when the draft occasionally reversed, 
dangerous fumes soon fouled the air. 
Large exhaust fans did not solve the 
problem, and ultimately the generators 
had to be moved outside the tunnel. 
The engineers then installed a four- 



22 Ltr, HQ, AGF, to CG, Second Army et al., sub: 
Observer's Notes on the Italian Campaign, 4 Oct 
43-29 Mar 44, 319. 1 , AGF file, Binder 1 , Jan-Jun 44; 
PBS Engr Hist, pt. I, 1943-45, sec. I, Chronological 
Summary, p. 31; Engr Service, PBS, Work Accom- 
plished, 2 Oct 43-1 Sep 44, pp. 142-46. 



inch pipeline to carry compressed air 
to a pressure tank near the main block, 
whence two smaller lines carried the 
compressed air to the work forces. 

The main problem was to cut a pas- 
sage through the mass of debris with- 
out bringing down more rock and dirt. 
The engineers first built a broad-base 
masonry wall atop the debris on each 
side of the passage to support the roof. 
Then they removed the material be- 
tween the two walls, tamped crevices 
and cracks exposed in the debris sup- 
porting the walls with mortar, and filled 
undermined sections with stone mason- 
ry. The engineers had another major 
difficulty at track level, where the debris 
was composed of fine material that had 
filtered down through the larger rocks. 
This material tended to run out from 
under the new walls, and, once started, 
was hard to stop. In one instance the 
fine material undermined a forty-foot 
section of new wall and delayed work 
for four days. Only by making under- 
mined sections shorter could the engi- 
neers alleviate the problem. This pro- 
cess slowed all work on the tunnel, and 
the rail line to Cisterna did not open 
until 20 July. 

North of the Monte Orso tunnel the 
Germans had blown overpasses and 
bridges, removed whole sections of rail 
to help build defensive works, and pre- 
pared culverts for demolition but had 
actually blown few. The main job north 
of Monte Orso was bridging the Musso- 
lini Canal, where two of three concrete- 
arch spans were down. The 94th Engi- 
neers restored this crossing by using a 
68-foot steel girder to span the center 
section of the bridge and an earth fill 
to replace the northern span. 

On this and other jobs along the sec- 
tion of railroad north of Monte Orso a 



ENGINEERS IN THE PENINSULAR BASE SECTION 



245 



major problem was getting supplies. 
Engineer equipment and construction 
material had to be trucked 80 to 115 
miles from the Naples area; cement and 
bridge steel came 40 to 70 miles from 
the Minturno railhead; some lumber 
came 50 miles from Anzio (but most of 
it by truck from Naples); and sand came 
from beaches 5 to 15 miles from the 
railroad. Until it closed, the Fifth Army 
fuel point at Fondi supplied gasoline. 
Later, gas and oil had to be hauled sixty 
to ninety miles from Sparanise. 

Once Fifth Army reached Leghorn 
on 20 July, almost all -rehabilitation was 
centered on lines well north of Rome. In 
PBS (Main), rehabilitation included 
forty-eight miles of mainline track, nine 
major bridges, and six railheads. Much 
of this work was in the immediate vicin- 
ity of Leghorn, but the largest single 
assignment was a twelve-mile stretch of 
track between Pisa and Florence, where 
five demolished bridges had to be re- 
built. By V-E Day 3,000 miles of rail 
lines were in use in western Italy. 

Work on roads accounted for nearly 
one-third of base section construction 
man-hours from July 1944 to mid- 
March 1945. In northern Italy, Italian 
soldiers and contractors working under 
engineer supervision accounted for 
over 75 percent of the man-hours that 
went into road maintenance and repair. 
But many assignments — particularly 
building and maintaining roads in base 
section depots — were either too diffi- 
cult or too urgent for local authorities 
to handle, and these fell to American 
engineer units. 

One of the main occupations of base 
section engineers was general hospital 
construction, which consisted mostly of 
expanding existing buildings and facili- 
ties. In the Naples area, the unfinished 



exhibition buildings at Bagnoli fair- 
grounds housed six hospitals, a medi- 
cal laboratory, and a medical supply 
depot. The Army took over modern 
civilian hospitals in the city and used 
schools and other public buildings to 
house nine more hospitals. A general 
hospital operated in an apartment build- 
ing near Pomigliano Airfield, and an 
unfinished apartment building at Fuori- 
grotta, near the Bagnoli fairgrounds, 
was home to the 37th General Hospital. 
Much of the engineer work went into 
increasing the water, electric, and sani- 
tary systems. At most hospitals engi- 
neers had to black out windows, clear 
away debris, put up or take out parti- 
tions, install equipment, and erect pre- 
fabricated barracks where more space 
was needed. 

Using existing buildings had great 
advantages over putting up standard 
buildings, but from the engineer stand- 
point it also had certain disadvantages. 
Since the scale of allowances NATOUSA 
established was barely applicable, each 
potential site had different construction 
and alteration requirements. As each 
site was selected, the Engineer Service 
and the surgeon's office determined 
what work would be required. In most 
cases engineers were able to move hos- 
pital personnel in within a few days and 
then continue their work. 

By mid-March 1944, twenty-three 
general and station hospitals were open 
in the vicinity of Naples. Five more were 
started before the end of May, but find- 
ing large buildings to convert was be- 
coming increasingly difficult. After the 
spring offensive began only one more 
was built south of Anzio, and it con- 
sisted mainly of 20-by-48-foot prefabri- 
cated barracks. The offensive opened 
up a new supply of barracks, schools, 



246 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



and other public buildings adaptable 
to hospitals. In June hospitals started 
operating in Rome and in smaller towns 
to the north. During the latter months 
of the campaign, hospital construction 
centered in the Leghorn-Florence area; 
of the twenty-three hospitals built north 
of Anzio by mid-March 1945, five were 
in Rome, six in Leghorn, and four in 
Florence. 

For a long time the largest general 
construction assignment was hospitals, 
but toward the close of 1944, with the 
end of the war in sight, another pro- 
gram loomed for PBS engineers: pre- 
paring training and staging areas for 
redeploying troops and building enclo- 
sures for prisoners of war. By mid- 
February 1945 tentative redeployment 
plans called for eight 25,000-man train- 
ing areas, two 5,000-man training areas, 
and two 20,000-man staging areas. Also 
in prospect was a major construction 
program to accommodate liberated Rus- 
sians and another for Nazi prisoners of 
war. The two 20,000-man staging areas 
were then well toward completion, but 
MTOUSA and the War Department 
delayed the POW enclosures. Repeated 
changes in instructions for the Florence 
redeployment training area also made 
it difficult for the Engineer Service to 
allocate construction equipment, per- 
sonnel, and material. By mid-April con- 
struction had started on four POW 
camps: one at Aversa for 10,000 men, 
another at Florence for IS, 000, and two 
at Leghorn for 60,000. Construction for 
redeployment and for POWs continued 
beyond V— E Day. When Germany sur- 
rendered, 20,000-man redeployment 
training areas at Francolise, Monteca- 
tini, and Florence, as well as three 
30,000-man POW camps, were still 
under construction. 



On nearly every PBS engineer job, 
mine clearing had first priority — even 
in areas once held by Fifth Army troops. 
To remove mines in areas into which 
Allied troops moved, PBS relied on base 
section engineers, British as well as 
American, who got some help from 
attached Italian engineer troops and at 
the end of the war from volunteer Ital- 
ian prisoners of war. Mine clearing took 
considerable time; for example, in June 
1944 at Scauri the 345th Engineers 
spent 22,405 man-hours during an eigh- 
teen-day period searching a building 
to be used by the 49th Quartermaster 
Group. At a hospital site north of Naples 
the same unit found 230 Teller mines 
and 47 other mines and booby traps. 
At Leghorn, one of the most heavily 
mined areas in Italy, base section en- 
gineers, with the help of two British 
bomb disposal units, removed 25,000 
mines. Other mine removal was a re- 
sponsibility of the Allied Military Gov- 
ernment Labor Office, which recruited 
and trained civilian volunteers for the 
work. By mid-April these volunteers 
had found 69,000 mines, bombs, and 
projectiles in and around Florence 
alone. 

In addition to the large body of PBS 
engineers working on construction — 
the general service regiments, combat 
battalions and regiments, port construc- 
tion companies, separate battalions, 
construction battalions, and petroleum 
distribution companies, which built 
ports, roads, bridges, railroads, camps, 
hospitals, stockades, depots, and other 
installations — were a number of the 
small special units such as water supply 
and mapping. In August 1943 the War 
Department abolished water supply bat- 
talions in favor of separate companies 
and left reorganizing the battalions to 



ENGINEERS IN THE PENINSULAR BASE SECTION 



247 



the theaters' discretion. Fifth Army 
chose not to reorganize its 405th Engi- 
neer Water Supply Battalion until after 
V— E Day. PBS had to reorganize the 
401st Engineer Water Supply Battal- 
ion in August 1944 to furnish units for 
ANVIL and redesignated Companies A 
and B the 1513th and the 1514th Engi- 
neer Supply Companies, respectively. 
The former took over water supply 
work in PBS, and the 1514th went to 
southern France. 

The 405th Water Supply Battalion 
provided 74 percent of the 454,765,000 
gallons of water the army drew through 
the campaign. 23 When the rear section 
of Company C entered Naples from the 
land side on 1 October, the city had 
been without fresh water for more than 
a week, for the retreating Germans had 
destroyed the 53-mile-long aqueduct 
bringing spring water from Serino. 
Sewer lines were clogged and over- 
flowing, and the danger of a typhoid 
'or typhus epidemic threatened a half 
million people. At first the rear section 
could accomplish little, for all purifica- 
tion equipment was out in the harbor 
aboard ship with the main section; but 
the following morning the rear section 
discovered within a hundred yards of 
the headquarters they had established 
in the Poggioreale area, the undamaged 
Bolla aqueduct, which brought indus- 
trial water to the city. With meager 
equipment the section pumped this 
water into tankers, purified it, and set 
up four water points in the city. Crowds 

23 Capt. William J. Diamond, "Water Supply in 
Italy," The Military Engineer, XXXIX (August 1947), 
332; Rpt, Functions of the Base Engr, prepared by 
PBS Engr, 25 Oct 43; Extracts from Rpl on Peninsu- 
lar Base Section, NATOUSA, 10 Feb 44, sec. VIII, 
Engr Service; PBS Engr Hist, pt. 1, 1943-45, sec. I, 
Chronological Summary, pp. 27-30; Engineer History, 
Mediterranean, app. K. 



of civilians with containers gathered, 
the press so great that armed guards 
had to keep order. By curfew the same 
day, 60,000 gallons of water had been 
distributed. After the arrival of the 
main section of the company and eleven 
days and nights of work, fresh water 
reached Naples by 13 October. 

Company C of the 405th remained 
in the Naples area until the 401st Water 
Supply Battalion arrived in mid-Nov- 
ember 1943 to handle water supply in 
the PBS area. Thereafter the 405th 
employed a company for supplying 
army installations, particularly hospitals. 
During the winter of 1943-44 not all 
of the 401st was needed in the PBS 
area, and at least one company was gen- 
erally available for well drilling, water 
hauling, and general construction. 

In the north at Leghorn the main 
source of water was a series of wells at 
Filettole pump station, some fifteen 
miles north of Pisa. When Leghorn fell 
these wells were still in German hands, 
but engineers were able to furnish water 
from other sources. When the Filettole 
station was captured, engineers found 
that the Germans had destroyed all the 
pumps, and restoring the facility ap- 
peared hopeless. Closer inspection, how- 
ever, showed that new pumps could 
make the station operational. This job 
was undertaken by Company F of the 
338th Engineer General Service Regi- 
ment, aided by civilian workers. Also 
required to reopen the line to Leghorn 
were repairs to a twenty-mile-long, 
sixteen-inch cast-iron pipeline that had 
been broken in many places, the worst 
at the 550-foot Arno River crossing, the 
300-foot Serchio River crossing, and a 
100-foot canal crossing. 

The most difficult repair job was at 
the Arno River crossing. In September 



248 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



Company F tried to put a pipe across 
the Arno on bents built on the trusses 
of a demolished bridge, but flood waters 
washed it out before it was finished. 
Company F then tried to put a welded 
pipe across the river bottom, but the 
pipe broke on 23 October. In the mean- 
time a new Serchio River crossing had 
to be raised six feet to get it above flood 
stage. In November a third attempt to 
get a line across the Arno succeeded, 
and water began to flow through to 
Leghorn. Many leaks showed up in the 
pipeline, and repairs and improve- 
ments continued well into 1945. Over 
96,000 man-hours, divided about equally 
between several engineer units and Ital- 
ian civilians, ultimately went into the 
restoration. 

At both Naples and Leghorn, as well 
as in other cities, the municipal water 
systems were badly damaged, but not 
destroyed. The Germans had needed 
to use municipal water supplies until 
the last minute, and civilians had frus- 
trated some destruction. 24 Engineers 
were able not only to restore water for 
public use in a remarkably short time 
but also to provide railroad engineers 
with water for locomotives and to send 
tank trucks to engineer fire-fighting 
platoons. 25 

The War Department first author- 
ized fire-fighting units for the Corps of 
Engineers in August 1942, and by the 
end of 1943 six platoons of thirty-eight 
men each were in Peninsular Base Sec- 
tion. Several more were formed in June 
1944 from the 6487th Engineer Con- 
struction Battalion, and five Italian fire- 
fighting units were organized and equip- 



24 Chf Engr, 1 5th Army Gp, Notes on Engr Opns in 
Italy, no. 8, 1 Feb 44. 
2j Diamond, "Water Supply in Italy," p. 332. 



ped; just before ANVIL, PBS had nine- 
teen fire-fighting platoons. The new 
platoons trained at a fire-fighting school 
in Aversa, each equipped and organ- 
ized to operate in four sections. The 
main job was not to fight fires but to 
prevent them by inspecting for fire haz- 
ards and by keeping fire extinguishers 
filled and in good working order. De- 
spite such precautions a number of fires 
broke out. One fire-fighting platoon 
assigned to Fifth Army averaged three 
fire calls a week for several months, and 
at the Anzio ammunition depot fifty 
fires broke out during April 1944 alone. 
Tankdozers and armored bulldozers, 
used to scatter burning ammunition 
boxes and then smother them with dirt, 
were effective against dangerous ammu- 
nition dump fires. 26 

A less familiar task in Italy was real 
estate operations. In the AVALANCHE 
plans the responsibility for procuring 
properties for American agencies went 
to the engineers. The Real Estate Branch 
of the PBS Engineer Service processed 
all requests by American units for prop- 
erty in the base section area. It also took 
control of real estate records for prop- 
erty that Fifth Army released to Penin- 
sular Base Section. In the combat area 
when Fifth Army troops damaged prop- 
erty they occupied (and their occupancy 
was a matter of record) the owner was 
entitled to compensation. Damage that 
occurred before occupancy was charged 
to "fortunes-of-war," for which no com- 
pensation was paid. Careful records 
had to be kept to separate the two 
categories. For these purposes photo- 
graphic records showing the condition 



2t ' Fred K. Shirk, "Engineer Fire Fighters in the 
March on Rome," The Military Engineer, XXXVII 
(April 1945), 147-48. 



ENGINEERS IN THE PENINSULAR BASE SECTION 



249 



of properties, particularly when removal 
of damaged portions was necessary, 
proved valuable, as did detailed inven- 
tories of small, movable furnishings and 
fixtures. When the war ended, the Real 
Estate Branch held active files on more 
than 3,900 properties ranging from 
open fields to beautiful villas. Hundreds 
more had been requisitioned, used, and 
returned to private owners. 

Before the invasion of Italy the engi- 
neers had made few preparations to 
handle real estate work. The field was 
fairly new, and few officers were ex- 
perienced. For the most part, forms and 
procedures had to be worked out by 
trial and error in Italy. Under the terms 
of the armistice the Italian government 
undertook to make all required facil- 
ities, installations, equipment, and sup- 
plies available to the Allies and to make 
all payments in connection with them. 
Allied military agencies made only emer- 
gency payments required to keep finan- 
cially alive individual workers and con- 
tractors employed by the Allies. 27 

Procuring real estate for military use 
and keeping the necessary records were 
nevertheless considerable tasks. One of 
the biggest stumbling blocks for the 
Real Estate Branch was the lack of a 
central agency in Fifth Army to handle 
real estate; thus, records the army turned 
over to PBS were often confused. The 
establishment of a real estate section in 
the Fifth Army engineer command, 
after nearly a year in Italy, helped mat- 
ters considerably. Thereafter this sec- 
tion, together with G— 4, Fifth Army, 
was able to plan in advance for real 
estate needed for dumps, bivouac areas, 
and other installations. 28 



11 Garland and Smyth, Sicily and the Surrender of Italy, 
pp. 559-64. 

2S Extracts from Rpt on Peninsular Base Section, 



Engineers in PBS were to handle, 
store, and issue maps. Under the Sup- 
ply Branch of the PBS Engineer Service, 
two thirteen-man engineer depot de- 
tachments operated a map depot and 
made bulk issues to both Fifth and 
Eighth Armies. Peninsular Base Section 
had no topographic units for survey, 
drafting, or reproduction. The map 
depot detachments had reproduction 
sections but limited their operations to 
copying construction drawings and pre- 
paring administrative directives and 
reports for the PBS engineer and engi- 
neer units. 

Soon after Naples fell the 2634th 
Engineer Map Depot Detachment set 
up a map library at the Engineer Ser- 
vice headquarters and a base map depot 
at Miano. The map library filled small 
orders while the Miano depot made 
bulk issues to Fifth and Eighth Armies. 
A second map depot detachment arrived 
in the base section in November 1943 
and a third in April 1944. NATOUSA 
activated other map depot detachments 
for ANVIL, and, of the final total of six, 
three went to southern France. 

In preparation for the 1944 offen- 
sives to and past Rome, PBS engineers 
took over some twenty tons of maps 
from Fifth Army depots at Paestum, 
but these sheets covered only the area 
south of the Volturno. Additional maps 
covering the area north to Leghorn 
arrived later, and before the end of 
1943 some 700 tons of maps had 
reached the Miano depot. The PBS 
map depots stocked ground maps of 
Italy in four scales (1:25,000, 1:50,000, 
1 : 100,000, and 1 :250,000) as well as air 
maps, small-scale coverages of Europe, 



NATOUSA, 10 Keb 44, sec. VIII, Engr Service; PBS 
Engr Hist, pt. I, 1943-45, sec. I, Chronological 
Summary. 



250 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



town plans, and road maps. The num- 
ber of map sheets ran into the millions. 29 

For the first time in the European 
war, engineer lumber operations in 
Italy assumed importance. Engineer 
training was based largely on the use of 
locally procured lumber for all aspects 
of construction, but in the United King- 
dom, North Africa, and Sicily the sup- 
ply had been so short that the engi- 
neers had come to rely on substitutes. 

Italy offered the first real opportu- 
nity overseas to obtain large quantities 
of lumber from local sources. In two 
years, PBS forestry operations in Italy 
produced lumber amounting to 370,885 
ship tons, more than the total tonnage 
of engineer supplies recovered through 
Italian ports during the first year of 
the campaign. The lumbering opera- 
tions also saved money; Italian lumber 
cost an estimated $25.00 per 1,000 
board feet delivered to the using unit; 
the price in the United States at the 
time was $40.00 per 1,000 board feet 
at the mill. 30 

At about the time of the Salerno 
landing, engineers crossed the Strait of 
Messina to investigate timber reserves 
and lumbering facilities in Cosenza 
Province and found approximately nine 
million board feet of milled lumber, a 
large stockpile of unsawed logs, exten- 
sive timber tracts, and scores of exist- 
ing sawmills. With the capture of Naples, 
lumber quickly became a critical item. 
The engineers needed piles for port 
rehabilitation, bridging, and power line 
poles; timbers and heavy planking for 
building and decking; ties for railroads; 

29 AGF Bd Rpt 179, NATOUSA, Notes on Map- 
ping an Army, 16 Aug 44; PBS Engr Hist, pt. I, 
1943—45, sec. 1, Chronological Summary. 

*° PBS Engr Hist, pt. I, 1943-45, sec. II, app. V 
and app. VI; Hist 800th Engr Forestry Co, 13 Dec 
43-30 Jun 44. 



and lumber for boxing, building, and 
dunnage. The only American forestry 
unit in the theater, the 800th Engineer 
Forestry Company, was then operating 
a sawmill in Tunisia, but this unit had a 
relatively low shipping priority and 
could not be moved promptly to Italy. 
Therefore, during the latter part of 
November PBS sent a detachment of 
about fifty men from the 40th Engi- 
neer Combat Regiment to the Cosenza 
area to ship stockpiled lumber. 31 

Soon after the 800th Engineer For- 
estry Company reached Naples in mid- 
December 1943, it split into three de- 
tachments. Twenty men went to Cosenza 
to give the 40th Engineers experienced 
mill men and lumber checkers, while a 
smaller group remained in Naples to 
search out lumber stocks. The rest of 
the company moved into a timber stand 
at Montesano, about 120 miles south- 
east of Naples, and on Christmas Day 
began milling operations. With its por- 
table sawmill the company produced 
over 75,000 board feet of lumber at 
Montesano and then, on 21 January 
1944, moved to Cosenza. There it took 
over lumber production from the 40th 
Engineers and by June 1944 had forty- 
three civilian sawmills operating in the 
area, producing about a quarter of a 
million board feet per day. 

The 800th, operating over a wide 
area 250 miles from Headquarters, 
PBS, virtually took over operation of 
the Cosenza-Camigliatello narrow-gauge 
railroad relay track after washouts and 
landslides and cleared away deep snow 
drifts during the winter. The company 
also performed its own road construc- 
tion and maintenance, including build- 



3 1 Interv with Col SmuUen; Engr Service, PBS, Work. 
Accomplished, p. 275. 



ENGINEERS IN THE PENINSULAR BASE SECTION 



251 



ing culverts and bridges. The unit oper- 
ated a motor pool that expanded from 
an original Fifteen vehicles to a fleet of 
seventy-seven trucks and performed its 
own maintenance. It operated a depot 
where civilian laborers loaded an aver- 
age of thirty-five cars of lumber piling a 
day; it employed 400 civilians directly 
and supervised nearly 3,000 others 
employed at civilian sawmills. 

During its first year at Cosenza the 
800th's sawmill, working two shifts a 
day seven days a week, produced ap- 
proximately 7,956,290 board feet of 
lumber. Peak production came during 
October 1944, when the mill produced 
an average of 37,245 board feet a day. 
Total lumber shipments from the Co- 
senza area during the twelve months 
ending January 1945 amounted to 
63,987,350 board feet. 32 

Producing the lumber was one thing; 
delivering it was another. At times breaks 
in the rail lines, heavy snowfalls in the 
mountains, and shortages of railroad 
cars cut sharply into shipments from 
Cosenza. At such times the engineers 
had to pile the lumber in the Cosenza 
railroad yards, and on one occasion 
these stockpiles contained approximately 
1,750,000 board feet of lumber. For 
seven weeks, from February to April 
1944, and again the following January, 
blizzards in the mountains curtailed 
shipments by 300,000 to 400,000 board 
feet a week. Mt. Vesuvius erupted on 
18 March 1944, burying several miles 
of railroad track under six to eight 
inches of cinders and tying up nearly 
seven hundred railroad cars for sev- 
eral days. 33 

32 Hist 800th Engr Forestry Co, Monthly Rpts, 13 
Dec 43-May 45, Personal files, M/Sgt Robert Kauf- 
man. 

ss Hist 727th Engr Railway Operating Bn, Trans- 
portation Corps, p. 60. 



In September 1944 four members of 
the 800th went to Leghorn to teach 
men of the 338th Engineer General 
Service Regiment and Italian troops 
how to operate sawmills. This reduced 
the amount of lumber that had to be 
shipped to Leghorn from Cosenza, 650 
miles away. By February 1945 two mills 
in northern Italy were producing 40,000 
board feet a day. Though many logs 
and trees in timber stands in northern 
Italy were worthless for military opera- 
tions because of imbedded shrapnel, 
lumber production in the area never- 
theless increased. On one day early in 
May 1945 four mills there achieved a 
peak production of 108,639 board feet. 34 

PBS Supply and Maintenance 

The Peninsular Base Section supply 
and maintenance units came under a 
provisional base depot group headquar- 
ters command in Naples as soon as PBS 
became operational. Depot companies 
directed operations and supervised Ital- 
ian laborers in the supply oudets; main- 
tenance companies handled construc- 
tion equipment pools and third, fourth, 
and fifth echelon maintenance of heavy 
equipment; and a heavy shop company 
made tools and spare parts for the 
maintenance units and did some re- 
pairs. 

Engineer depot companies operated 
two main depots in western Italy. One, 
near Naples, was located at an Italian 
Army barracks, and the other at an Ital- 
ian movie studio at Tirrenia, a few miles 



14 Hist 800th Engr Forestry Co, Mthly Rpts, 13 Dec 
43-May 45, with annexes. 

ss Engr Service, PBS, Work Accomplished, pp. 
273 — 74. Unless otherwise indicated this section is 
based on this source and the histories of the units 
mentioned. 



252 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



north of Leghorn. In the Naples area 
special engineer depots were also set 
up for POL construction supplies, 
stream-crossing equipment, and maps. 
PBS engineers also took over Fifth 
Army engineer depots at Anzio, Civita- 
vecchia, Piombino, and other points as 
the army moved forward. These army 
depots either operated where they were 
until their stocks were exhausted, or 
they closed forthwith to move stocks to 
more central locations. 

Initially the 458th Engineer Depot 
Company handled all administrative 
duties at all PBS engineer depots, while 
the 386th Engineer Battalion (Separate), 
aided by several hundred civilian 
workers, received, stored, and issued 
supplies. The 386th also kept several 
men on duty day and night in the port 
of Naples to identify engineer supplies 
and to see that they went to the proper 
depots. The 473d Engineer Mainte- 
nance Company received and issued 
heavy equipment at the depots and 
maintained equipment in the depots 
and in engineer units. A second engi- 
neer depot company, the 462d, arrived 
in Naples toward the end of November 
1943 and ultimately took over the engi- 
neer depots Fifth Army left behind in 
its drive north during June and July 
1944. 

With the opening of the engineer 
depot near Leghorn, those at Civitavec- 
chia and Piombino were closed as rap- 
idly as transportation permitted, and 
elements of the 462d moved up to oper- 
ate the Leghorn depot. There, two Ital- 
ian engineer companiesjoined the Am- 
erican unit as a labor force, and civil- 
ians from as far off as Pisa and Lari 
were hired to help. As many as a thou- 
sand civilians a day — a number limited 
only by the amount of transportation 



available — worked at the Leghorn de- 
pot. During December 1944 a total of 
23,959 tons of engineer supplies reached 
the depot, which issued 20,907 tons. 
With Leghorn the focal point for engi- 
neer supply in the PBS forward area, the 
Supply Section of the PBS (Main) Engi- 
neer Service took up quarters there and 
kept stock records of all engineer depots 
in the PBS forward area. 

Two types of engineer units, light 
equipment and base equipment com- 
panies, could service, issue, and when 
necessary, operate Class IV equipment — 
extra and special equipment such as 
bulldozers issued temporarily or for 
specific jobs. In July 1944 the 688th 
Engineer Base Equipment Company 
reached Naples to assemble equipment 
coming into engineer depots, service it, 
transport it to requisitioning units, and 
provide instructors for receiving units. 
But in mid-September the 688th passed 
to Seventh Army control, and thereaf- 
ter PBS engineer maintenance compa- 
nies had to do the 688th's work as well 
as their own. 

In August 1944 Brig. Gen. Dabney 
O. Elliott, NATOUSA engineer, put 
theater requirements for maintenance 
companies at eleven and estimated that 
the theater also needed at least one 
heavy shop and three maintenance com- 
panies to support Army Air Forces 
units properly. At the time only three 
engineer maintenance companies and 
two engineer heavy shop companies 
were available in the theater. 36 

The 469th Engineer Maintenance 
Company went to Italy with Fifth Army, 
and the 473d, a PBS unit, reached 



Elliott comments, 18 Mar 60; G-3 Section, HQ, 
1 5th Army Croup, A Military Encyclopedia, pp. 322—23. 



ENGINEERS IN THE PENINSULAR BASE SECTION 



253 



Naples on 10 October 1943. The 473d 
took in equipment for second, third, 
fourth, and even fifth echelon repairs 
and also functioned as a base equip- 
ment company, hauling heavy engineer 
equipment from the port and uncrating, 
assembling, and servicing it for both 
PBS and Fifth Army units. Roads in 
the shop area deteriorated badly dur- 
ing the fall, and in January the unit 
had to move to a new hard-surfaced 
area near the port, ten miles from the 
engineer depot. In mid- April, with the 
coming of dry weather, the company 
returned to Naples. Both moves cost 
the unit heavily, for it took eleven days 
and help from other units to move the 
5,200 tons of heavy engineer equip- 
ment back to the depot. 

Engineer maintenance forces in PBS 
had been strengthened in February 
1944 by the arrival of the 496th Engi- 
neer Heavy Shop Company, but a month 
passed before all of the 496th's equip- 
ment reached Italy. In the meantime 
the unit established itself at a civilian 
steel jobbing concern in Naples. There 
it set up and operated a series of sepa- 
rate shops for engine rebuilding, carbu- 
retor and injection repair, electrical 
repair, salvage and reclamation work, 
forging, welding, and patternmaking. 

An important function was manufac- 
turing spare parts that could not be 
obtained through normal supply chan- 
nels: piston rings and cylinder sleeves 
for internal combustion engines, air 
compressors, and reciprocating pumps. 
The 496th also salvaged and recondi- 
tioned usable parts from scrapped equip- 
ment, did fourth and fifth echelon engi- 
neer maintenance, and took on third 
echelon maintenance until a third engi- 
neer maintenance company, the 470th, 
arrived in Italy during May 1944. 



ANVIL laid a heavy hand on engi- 
neer maintenance resources in Italy. 
Fifth Army gave up its 469th Engineer 
Maintenance Company; PBS lost the 
470th Engineer Maintenance Company 
and the 688th Engineer Base Equip-, 
ment Company. Italy was left with one 
maintenance company (split among the 
Army Air Forces, Fifth Army, and PBS), 
one heavy shop company, and one base 
shop company. PBS had to turn more 
and more to Italian sources. The 1st 
Engineer Maintenance Company (Ital- 
ian) was activated in July 1944 and 
attached to the 473d Engineer Mainte- 
nance Company at the Naples engineer 
depot; the 2d Engineer Maintenance 
Company (Italian) came into being in 
mid-August and worked with the 496th 
Engineer Heavy Shop Company until 
ready to function independently. Al- 
though handicapped in personnel and 
equipment, both units were soon doing 
good work. Machinists, blacksmiths, 
welders, and carpenters were easy 
enough to find among Italian soldiers 
and civilians, but skilled mechanics, 
patternmakers, and foundry workers 
were not. Moreover, securing adequate 
maintenance equipment for the Italian 
units was difficult. U.S. Army tables of 
basic allowances did not provide for 
equipping either unauthorized or ex- 
panded units, so the two Italian compa- 
nies never had more than half the 
equipment allotted their American 
counterparts. 

During the summer of 1944 the main- 
tenance of engineer equipment became 
critical; in June, when daily advances 
were great, the 19th Engineer Combat 
Regiment had to haul its dozers long 
distances for minor repairs. During the 
next month and into September as 
much as 50 percent of the unit's heavy 



254 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



equipment was under repair, and over 
the last half of 1944 the 19th Engineers 
had an average of fifty pieces of equip- 
ment in its "waiting line." The shortage 
of engineer maintenance units was the 
main reason, but there were others: 
poor preventive maintenance, particu- 
larly during the rapid advances of July 
and August; equipment that had worn 
out after two or more years of use; 
replacement of some trained mechan- 
ics with untrained limited-service men; 
and a shortage of certain critical spare 
parts. Another important factor was 
extra wear and tear that equipment suf- 
fered at the hands of unskilled operators. 
Multiple shifts and heavy use of Class 
IV equipment required several times 
the number of operators provided by 
unit TOEs. 

Toward the end of 1944, MTOUSA 
was able to achieve a better balance of 
engineer forces, largely with men from 
deactivated antiaircraft units. The engi- 
neers used some of these men to acti- 
vate two new engineer maintenance 
companies. In Pensouth the 5th Engi- 
neer Maintenance Company was acti- 
vated on 10 November with a cadre of 
a few men from both the 473d and 
496th Engineer Companies. In Fifth 
Army the 40th Engineer Maintenance 
Company came into being on 1 Decem- 
ber with a cadre from the 473d Engi- 
neer Company. Neither of the new 
engineer maintenance companies came 
up to full strength until the end of 
December 1944, and many of the men 
had had no experience in maintenance. 
Already a heavy backlog of deadlined 
equipment had built up, while hard 
winter usage and age kept broken ma- 
chines flowing to repair shops. Grad- 
ually, greater attention to first and sec- 
ond echelon maintenance reduced 



breakdowns, and in March five inspec- 
tion teams, made up of men from the 
maintenance and heavy shop companies, 
began to make frequent trips among 
units. In April Fifth Army reported the 
fewest equipment breakdowns in six 
months. 

Probably the most challenging sup- 
ply job the engineers had was handling 
spare parts — between eighty and ninety 
thousand different items. By early 1944 
fast-moving parts were noticeably lack- 
ing throughout the engineer shops in 
the theater, whereas slow-moving items 
were overstocked. In August 1944, 
inspection teams from the United States 
found that about one-fourth of the 
10,000 tons of spare parts in MTOUSA 
was excess that had accumulated as a 
result of the automatic supply policy. 
Some of the heavy parts in third eche- 
lon maintenance sets had been stocked, 
unused, for two years, while allowances 
for certain other parts needed to be 
doubled, tripled, or increased even 
tenfold. 

Efficient handling of available parts 
required men thoroughly familiar with 
engineer equipment, with nomencla- 
ture and cataloging, with interchange- 
able parts, and with the repair history 
of parts and equipment. The 754th 
Engineer Parts Supply Company, the 
only such unit in MTOUSA, furnished 
cadres for spare parts platoons in engi- 
neer depot companies and, during the 
latter part of 1944, also lost men for 
retraining as infantry. By early 1945, 
60 percent of the company was new- 
comers, few of whom had any qualifica- 
tions for their assignments. 

Italian theater shortages came from 
sacrifices for the more decisive theater 
in northern Europe. Beginning in early 
1944, Fifth Army gave up support and 



ENGINEERS IN THE PENINSULAR BASE SECTION 



255 



combat units of all types to the ETOUSA 
command and to the invasion of south- 
ern France. In losing some of the best 
of its engineer units, the theater, in 
small measure, replenished some of 



what was borrowed in 1942 for commit- 
ment to Operation TORCH. The focus 
of the war shifted again to the Conti- 
nent opposite England. 



CHAPTER XII 



Reviving BOLERO in the 
United Kingdom 



ETOUSA engineers were essential to 
the buildup. They had to construct 
depots and camps to house the flood of 
incoming men and supplies, build the 
airfields from which preinvasion air 
strikes would be launched, and prepare 
plans and stockpile supplies for the 
engineer role in the invasion itself. 2 

The bases for planning the construc- 
tion program during 1943 remained the 
BOLERO Key Plans, and they changed 
as the Overlord concept developed. 
Engineer planning late in 1942 was 
based on the third BOLERO Key Plan, 
which held preparations for a full-scale 
invasion in abeyance although it pre- 
scribed a vague goal of 1 ,049,000 men 
in England with no firm target date. As 
early as January 1943 Col. Cecil R. 
Moore, the ETOUSA chief engineer, 
directed base section engineers to re- 
turn to the second BOLERO Key Plan as 
a guide and to use its troop basis of 
1,1 18,000 men with a completion date 
of 31 December 1943. 3 The TRIDENT 
decisions produced firmer data to work 



The decisions at the TRIDENT Con- 
ference in May 1943 — to undertake a 
strategic bombing campaign leading up 
to a cross-Channel invasion with a tar- 
get date of 1 May 1944 while continu- 
ing operations in the Mediterranean — 
rescued BOLERO from the doldrums 
into which it had fallen as a result of 
the diversions to North Africa. To be 
sure, the drain of the continuing cam- 
paigns in the Mediterranean and the 
British seeming reluctance to sacrifice 
those campaigns to a cross-Channel 
operation left some doubt in American, 
minds that the operations would be exe- 
cuted in a timely manner. Accordingly, 
for some months after TRIDENT the 
buildup proceeded haltingly and under 
relatively low priority. The appearance 
in July of an outline plan for the opera- 
tion, now designated OVERLORD, and 
the acceptance of that plan at the Que- 
bec Conference (QUADRANT) in August 
produced new momentum in the fall 
of 1943. But only the final resolution 
of all doubts at the meetings at Cairo- 
Tehran (SEXTANT) at the very end of 
the year gave BOLERO the top prior- 
ity that would reawaken the buildup in 
the United Kingdom. 1 



1 See Ruppenthal, Logistual Support of the Armies, Vol- 
ume I, pp. 114—71, 231— 68 tor a detailed account. 



Except where otherwise indicated the account that 
follows is based on this volume. 

2 On this aspect of the engineer effort in the United 
Kingdom and for other engineer support to the AAF 
see Craven and Cate, Europe: TORCH to POINT- 
BLANK, pp. 599-664. 

Colonel Moore was promoted to brigadier general 
on 26 April 1943 and to major general on 1 March 



REVIVING BOLERO IN THE UNITED KINGDOM 



257 



with, and on 12 July 1943, a fourth 
BOLERO Key Plan set the troop basis at 
1,340,000 men to be in Britain by 1 
May 1944. On the basis of decisions at 
the Quebec Conference in August the 
British War Office (with the advice of 
the American staff) on 30 October 1943 
issued an amended version of the fourth 
plan, setting the goal at 1,446,000 U.S. 
officers and enlisted men to be in the 
United Kingdom by 30 April 1944. 
This was the last of the key plans within 
which the engineer supply and construc- 
tion programs proceeded. 

The Continuing Problem of Organization 

The organizational framework within 
which the engineers operated — specifi- 
cally the division of function between 
the theater headquarters and the SOS — 
continued to cause problems during 

1943. As Commanding General, SOS, 
Maj. Gen. John C. H. Lee continued 
the drive he had begun in 1942 to bring 
all supply and administration in the the- 
ater under his control. He continued 
to meet determined resistance from 
those who insisted that the theater staff 
must remain responsible for theater- 
wide policy and planning for future 
operations and that the chiefs of ser- 
vices in particular must serve the the- 
ater commander directly in these areas 
even if their services were part of the 
SOS. Until the very end of the year 
compromise arrangements prevailed, 
but none of them were entirely satisfac- 
tory for the performance of engineer 
functions. 

The duplication of functions created 
by moving SOS headquarters to Chel- 
tenham in May 1942 persisted after Lt. 

1944. See lch. lf| Memo, Moore for Lee, I] Jan 43, 
325.21 Policies and Plans, EUCOM Engr files. 



Gen. Frank M. Andrews replaced Gen- 
eral Eisenhower as theater commander 
on 6 February 1943, and to a lesser de- 
gree after Lt. Gen. Jacob L. Devers 
replaced Andrews, who died in a plane 
crash on 3 May 1943. 4 In early March 
of that year Lee proposed to Andrews 
that he, Lee, be designated deputy 
theater commander for supply and ad- 
ministration as well as commanding 
general, SOS, with the theater G— 4 and 
all the chiefs of the technical and ad- 
ministrative services serving under him 
in his dual capacity. The solution was 
not unlike that adopted eventually, but 
at the time Andrews rejected the 
scheme. He insisted that planning for 
future operations, a function of the 
theater headquarters, should remain 
separate from administration and sup- 
ply of troops in the British Isles, a 
function of the SOS. Although he 
granted Lee more control over the 
chiefs of services, he also specified that 
they be ready to serve the theater com- 
mander immediately if needed. At the 
same time, he moved the whole SOS 
headquarters back to London close to 
ETOUSA. 5 While SOS planning came 
to be centered in London, an SOS dep- 
uty commander handled operations at 
Cheltenham. The operating echelons of 
the technical services remained at 
Cheltenham, and chiefs still had to spend 
some time there. 

General Devers lent a more willing 
ear to Lee's arguments and vested the 
commanding general, SOS, with the 
office of the G— 4 on the theater staff. 
An ETOUSA order of 27 May 1943 
gave Lee in this dual role jurisdiction 
over all supply concerns of the theater 
and divided his SOS command between 



ISee ch. II. | 

5 ETOUSA GO 16, 21 Mar 43. 



258 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



two equal chiefs of theater service func- 
tions, one for administration and one 
for services. The seven technical ser- 
vices, including the engineers, lumped 
together with a purchasing service and 
a new theater area petroleum service, 
then had a chain of access to the the- 
ater commander running through Col. 
Royal B. Lord as chief of services, SOS, 
and General Lee himself as surrogate 
theater G— 4. 6 Except for the limited 
consolidation involved in the G— 4 posi- 
tion, ETOUSA and SOS staffs contin- 
ued as separate entities, and the chiefs 
of services continued in dual roles in 
the two headquarters. Even this lim- 
ited consolidation suffered a setback 
when the G— 4 position on the ETOUSA 
staff was removed from the SOS com- 
mander and given to Maj. Gen. Robert 
W. Crawford between 8 October and 1 
December 1943. 7 

On 1 December General Crawford 
moved to the Chief of Staff to the Su- 
preme Allied Commander (COSSAC), 
a provisional Allied staff planning the 
invasion pending the establishment of 
a command for that purpose. General 
Lee then assumed the position of G— 4, 
ETOUSA, again. Another month 
brought the realization of his propos- 
als of early 1943. The expansion of the 
COSSAC role in England and the estab- 
lishment of active field, army, and army 
group commands in England reduced 
the ETOUSA administrative and long- 
range planning function to little more 
than that of the SOS, ETOUSA, com- 
mand. In effect, the two separate head- 
quarters existed for the same reason 
and shared the same special staff, which 
included the engineers. When General 



6 ETOUSA GO 33, 27 May 43. 

7 SOS ETOUSA GO 79, 19 Aug 43; ETOUSA GO 
71, 8 Oct 43; ETOUSA GO 90, 1 Dec 43. 



Eisenhower resumed command of the 
American theater and of the new Su- 
preme Headquarters, Allied Expedi- 
tionary Force (SHAEF), which suc- 
ceeded COSSAC on 15 January 1944, 
the ETOUSA and SOS staffs were con- 
solidated. At the same time, General 
Lee assumed the formal title of deputy 
theater commander, in which capacity 
he was to act for General Eisenhower 
in all theater administrative and ser- 
vice matters. 8 

The consolidation reduced the dupli- 
cation and inconsistencies and relieved 
the confusion that had characterized 
supply and administrative channels in 
1943. It provided the basis for organiz- 
ing an American Communications Zone 
command for operations on the Con- 
tinent. But the organizational picture 
was still complicated and command 
relationships confusing. Theoretically 
General Lee's ETOUSA-COMZ staff 
served General Eisenhower in his role 
as American theater commander while 
his Allied staff served him in his role as 
supreme commander, Allied Expedi- 
tionary Force. Senior American field 
commanders tended to regard Lee's 
headquarters as strictly an SOS or Com- 
munications Zone headquarters, equal 
to but not above their own headquar- 
ters and equally subject to Eisenhower's 
directions as supreme Allied command- 
er. They never accepted Lee's role as 
deputy theater commander and suc- 
ceeded in having it abolished in August 
1944. 

In a sense the ETOUSA-SOS rela- 
tionship with the Allied SHAEF com- 
mand created some of the same prob- 
lems that had characterized the relation- 
ship of SOS and ETOUSA because 



s ETOUSA GO 5, 17 Jan 44. 



REVIVING BOLERO IN THE UNITED KINGDOM 



259 




GENERAL MOORE (Photograph taken in 1945.) 



Eisenhower sometimes used the Ameri- 
can component of the SHAEF staff as 
an American theater staff. General 
Moore's misgivings about the command 
on the eve of the invasion were com- 
mon among his fellow technical service 
chiefs. The continued assignment of the 
Engineer Service under the SOS made 
the other elements in the theater regard 
the chief engineer as part of a "co-ordi- 
nate command and not one that had 
authority or supervision over their com- 
mands." 9 

The command arrangements in the 
theater thus remained unsatisfactory to 



!l Interv, Lt Col Shelby A. McMillion, Chf, Liaison 
Sect, OCE, with Maj Gen Moore, 10 May 44, sub: 
Overall Theater Problems in the United Kingdom, 
app. 17 to OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 1, Organization, 
Administration, and Personnel. (Hereafter cited as 
Moore Interv.) 



the Engineer Service throughout the 
buildup and preparation for the inva- 
sion. In manpower problems alone, 
Moore's headaches in bidding against 
other services for skilled men and in 
allocating work forces increased since 
he could not always exercise the weight 
and the rank of a theater commander's 
name in his own behalf. Equally diffi- 
cult was engineer supply in the theater. 

New Supply Procedures 

When the buildup in England was 
expressed in terms of troop ceilings in 
the high-level international conferences 
of spring and summer 1943, the fig- 
ures automatically implied demands for 
increased shipments of engineer sup- 
ply and equipment. General Moore's 
SOS Engineer Service would have to 
plan not only for accommodations for 
the incoming men but also for protec- 
tion and depot warehousing for both 
current operating supply and invasion 
materiel. The early part of 1943 saw 
the influx of comparatively small num- 
bers of troops, primarily Air Corps 
reinforcements for the stepped-up aer- 
ial offensive. Later arrivals would re- 
quire coordination of construction and 
supply functions, but the OCE Con- 
struction and Quartering Division had 
moved back to London in General An- 
drews' separation of planning and oper- 
ating staffs in March 1943, leaving the 
Supply Division at SOS headquarters, 
ninety miles away. The division never- 
theless contributed to some attempts at 
improving the supply flow to the United 
Kingdom, among them a program of 
preshipping unit equipment and new 
methods of marking shipments for desti- 
nations in England. 

Until the summer of 1943, engineer 



260 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



units arriving from the United States 
brought their organic equipment with 
them. After 1 July they turned in all 
their equipment except necessary house- 
keeping supplies at their port of embar- 
kation and upon reaching the United 
Kingdom drew new equipment, includ- 
ing supplemental maintenance supplies, 
from stocks previously shipped from 
the United States. The preshipment 
program took into account the prob- 
ability that larger numbers of troops 
would arrive in England in late 1943 
and early 1944 and sought to avoid 
overtaxing British port capacity and 
inland transportation nets with both 
troops and cargo by shipping the cargo 
beforehand. It also would permit Brit- 
ish and American dock crews to take 
advantage of the long summer days for 
unloading. 

But the limitations of the preship- 
ment program immediately made them- 
selves felt. Interpretations of the sup- 
ply flow differed from the start. The 
European theater command perceived 
the system as a guarantee that bulk 
stocks would arrive before using troops 
docked in Great Britain, where they 
would immediately pick up TBA mate- 
rial and draw other needed supply, but 
not necessarily the same items they sur- 
rendered before leaving the United 
States. War Department interpretations 
relied at first on force-marking, under 
which units were to recover the same 
equipment they had turned in at home. 
Begun under constraints arising from 
little excess supply in American inven- 
tories and training schedules that pre- 
vented units from giving up equipment 
until just before they sailed, preship- 
ment from May to August 1943 was 
primarily a vain struggle to Fill avail- 
able shipping space. 



The priority system established for 
supplying Army Ground Forces in En- 
gland also hobbled the program, with 
ETO supply occupying eighth place in 
the order of shipping importance in the 
United States. Until after SEXTANT the 
War Department was reluctant to change 
the priority for a theater that had no 
clear-cut and overriding strategic pre- 
cedence. By the time Army Service 
Forces arguments produced a higher 
priority in November 1943, troop sail- 
ings rivaled those of preshipped cargo 
and shipping space went to troops and 
their personal gear. 

The advance flow of heavier equip- 
ment for engineer work suffered from 
the uncertain supply policy in effect 
throughout 1943. During July and 
August of that year General Moore 
complained that bulk-shipped TBA 
items arrived in the United Kingdom 
long after engineer units. In that period 
75,000 engineer troops reached the the- 
ater to find that only 5 percent of their 
organizational equipment was waiting 
for them. As a result, most of the units 
could not contribute to the general con- 
struction program or even train effec- 
tively. 1 1 Receipt of bulk TBA equip- 
ment improved enough in September 
1943 to take care of the units arriving 
that month but was not sufficient to 
replenish reserve stocks depleted dur- 
ing the two previous months. Eventu- 
ally, engineer troops received standard 
equipment within seven to ten days 
after they arrived instead of the sixty 
to ninety days common under the old 
system. 12 

'" Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies, Vol- 
ume I, pp. 133 — 39; Leightonand Coakley, Global Logis- 
tics and Strategy, 1943 -45, pp. 51—52. 

1 1 OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 4, Troops. 

12 Intcrv, Maj. J. H. Thetford, OCE Supply Div, 22 
Sep 44, OCE. ' 



REVIVING BOLERO IN THE UNITED KINGDOM 



261 



Many engineer items shipped from 
the United States were poorly marked; 
some even lacked service identification 
marks. Of 3,920 items of prefabricated 
hutting more than 300 could not be 
used, largely because so many parts had 
been mixed together. 13 Supply pro- 
cesses improved for the engineers — and 
for other troops in the ETO — when 
SOS changed the UGLY marking system 
evolved in 1942. Under that system the 
first element in cargo identification, the 
code word UGLY, indicated the ETO; 
the second element indicated the supply 
service making the shipment; and the 
third indicated the class of supplies. 
Thus, engineer Class II supplied going 
to the ETO were marked UGLY- 
ENGRSII. 

Early in 1943, SOS and the British 
refined this system with the aim of 
eliminating long rail hauls from the 
ports. They divided the United King- 
dom into three zones: Zone I, North- 
ern England, identified by the code 
word SOXO; Zone II, Bristol and Lon- 
don, called GLUE; and Zone III, North- 
ern Ireland, called BANG. Thereafter, 
most cargo bore the shipping destina- 
tion Soxo, Glue, or Bang; Ugly indi- 
cated cargo not intended for any partic- 
ular port in the United Kingdom. This 
system cut down reshipment from port 
to port, brought supplies to the correct 
depot sooner, relieved pressure on the 
already overloaded British rail system, 
and enabled supplies to be moved out 
of ports sooner — a necessity with Ger- 
man air raids an ever present danger. 
Manifests also improved, and the new 
ISS (Identification of Separate Ship- 
ments to Overseas Destinations) forms 
completely identified, in the third ele- 

13 Shipment of Supplies, 400.22, EUCOM Engr files; 
OCE ETOUSA Monthly Rpt 8, Nov 43. 



ment of the Ugly address, separate 
shipments made against particular req- 
uisitions. 

No amount of new markings could 
revise the shortages in large items of 
engineer equipment throughout 1943. 
One of the most important items was 
the dump truck; at late as September 
the engineers had 1 ,000 fewer than the 
standard tables of allocations called for. 
Heavy construction equipment, general- 
purpose vehicles, and cranes were in 
critically short supply well into 1944. 
Augers, semi-trailers, graders, shop 
equipment, tractors with angledozers, 
generators, various hand tools, asphalt 
paving equipment, and spare parts of 
all types fell into this category. On 30 
April 1943, the backlog of engineer 
supply alone due in from the United 
States stood at 79,832 ship tons; by 
the end of August, it had increased to 
124,224 tons. 1 * 

Construction 

At the beginning of 1943 American 
engineers in the United Kingdom could 
not look back on an impressive con- 
struction record. They had built no 
hospitals, and although they had under- 
taken fourteen camp projects they had 
not completed any. They had worked 
on twelve airfields but none was more 
than 25 percent complete, and they had 
begun ten depots but none was finished. 
In one respect, however, the engineers 
had made considerable progress — they 
had learned, of necessity, how to work 
closely with the British. 



14 Moore interv; OCE ETOUSA Monthly Rpts, Apr 
43— Jun 44; Notes on Command and Staff Conf, 3, 
10 Jan 44, Adm 457, ETOUSA Hist Sect; Rpt, Lt Col 
John H. Hassinger, Chf, Tractor and Crane Sect, OCE 
WD, to Moore, Nov 43, 319.1 Rpts (General), EUCOM 



262 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



Because all facilities would ultimately 
go back to the British, many plans and 
specifications the engineers used were 
British, and the British had to approve 
deviations. British materials also had to 
be used. Influencing construction stan- 
dards and specifications were the small 
area available for military use; a short- 
age of lumber and a consequent reli- 
ance on steel, cement, and brick; and 
wet weather that produced continuous 
mud. Plans and procedures were af- 
fected by differences in diction, custom, 
and nomenclature; slow delivery of 
supplies; red tape and British centrali- 
zation; and heavy reliance on civilians.' 5 

Every project the engineers worked 
on had to be approved in the War 
Office by the Directorate of Quartering, 
the Directorate of Fortifications and 
Works, and by Works Finance which 
was made up entirely of civilians. The 
Construction Division, OCE, ETOUSA, 
had a liaison officer from the Director- 
ate of Fortifications and Works; an- 
other, for a time, from the Directorate 
of Quartering; and a third from the 
Air Ministry Works Directorate. In 
turn, the division kept a liaison officer 
on duty with the Directorate of Fortifi- 
cations and Works in the War Office. 16 

Getting standards for quarters and 
airfields approved was a problem, for 
in many cases American standards were 
higher than British. The increased cost 
per capita for U.S. forces was incom- 
prehensible to the British Works Fi- 
nance. Many projects were delayed fif- 
teen to forty-five days while the British 
investigated the need for the work. 



Engr files; Ltr, Moore to Col Joseph S. Gorlinski, 3 
May 43, 321 Gen, Apr -Dec 4 3, EUCOM Engr files. 
Moore interv; see fhs. 1 1 | and l 1 1 1 J 
,fi Interv, McMillion with Col Paul D. Berrigan, 8 
May 44. 



Another cause for delay was failure to 
receive British supplies promptly. That 
tardiness and shortages, the engineers 
estimated, cut the effectiveness of 
American troop labor by 30 percent. 
Fortunately, matters improved in the 
later stages of the buildup. 17 

When General Moore directed the 
base section engineers to go back to the 
second Key Plan in February 1943, the 
BOLERO construction program was 29 
percent complete. Priorities were air 
projects and depots, shops, and special 
projects, to be finished by 1 August 
1943; accommodations previously 
planned, to be finished by 15 October 
1943; and the hospital program, to be 
finished by 1 November 1943. Any 
additional accommodations were to be 
completed by the end of the year. 18 

The more rapid buildup under the 
fourth BOLERO Key Plan in July 1943 
and its amendment in October stepped 
up all types of construction in the 
United Kingdom. New troop ceilings 
set at the international conferences 
raised the demand for construction far 
above that established for the 1 , 1 1 8,000- 
man limit in the second Key Plan with- 
out changing the basic construction pri- 
orities favoring airfields. The QUAD- 
RANT decisions, in anticipating OVER- 
LORD, moved the staging areas for much 
of the invasion force from southern to 
southwestern England. Compared with 
the earlier construction demands, the 
work described in the fourth Key Plan 
expanded upon all previous work loads. 



17 Interv, Col C.J. Barker, Chf, Ground Proj Sect, 
C&Q Div, OCE, 12 May 44; Intervs, Moore and 
Berrigan. 

18 Ltr, OCE ETOUSA to Base Sect Engrs, 10 Feb 
43, sub: Bolero Construction Program, 600.1, 
EUCOM Engr files; For the earlier Bolero Key 
Plans, see |ch. I.| 



REVIVING BOLERO IN THE UNITED KINGDOM 



263 



The July version of the plan specified 
970,000 accommodations for incoming 
ground troops; the revised plan of 
October considered 1,060,000. Closed 
or covered storage and workshop space 
expanded from 15 million square feet 
in the third Key Plan to 18 million in 
the fourth plan and then to over 18 
million in the amended fourth plan. 
Open storage, set at 26 million square 
feet in the third plan, rose to 34 million 
in the fourth but declined to 29,736,000 
in the amended version. Petroleum 
products requirements rose from 
130,000 tons in July to 234,000 tons in 
October; ammunition from 244,000 
tons to 432,000 tons and then to 
452,000 tons in the amended fourth 
plan, all requiring special handling and 
storage. 19 

To meet deadlines under the new 
programs, the engineers had to limit 
construction to the bare necessities. 
Safety factors were at the minimum for 
the importance of the structure, while 
durability, cost, and appearance became 
minor considerations. The new con- 
struction largely ignored camouflage. 
Camps frequently went up in parade 
ground style, in open spaces and straight 
lines, adjacent to prominent landmarks. 
Bulldozer tracks and construction ma- 
terials, supplies, and equipment left in 
open fields attracted German 
bombers. 21 

The English winter created its own 
set of construction problems. There 



l!> The Adm and Log Hist of the ETO, vol. Ill, 
"Troop and Supply Buildup in the UK Prior to 
D-Day," pp. 57-73. 

2l> OCE ETOUSA Monthly Rpt 5, 14 Sep 43, p. 10. 

21 Ltr, WBS Engr to CO, 368th GS Rgt, 1 I Jan 44, 
sub: Camouflage Instructions, and Ltr, OCE, SOS 
ETOUSA, to SOS, WBS, EBS, and NIBS, 30 Nov 43, 
sub: Camouflage of . . . Installations, 384.6, EUCOM 
Engr files. 



were only eight hours of light each day, 
and using searchlights at night risked 
drawing German aircraft. Many men 
were stricken with colds, respiratory 
diseases, and other ailments in the 
damp weather. Every site had to be 
well drained, or the engineers and 
their equipment soon bogged down in 
mud. 22 

Determining when a construction 
project was finished became perplex- 
ing. Two interpretations were possible — 
when the contract was fulfilled or when 
the using service declared the job com- 
plete. The first criterion was compli- 
cated by extras that might or might not 
affect the usefulness of the particular 
facility. Some items such as work ramps, 
added after an original contract, upset 
completion schedules yet did not mate- 
rially delay when a facility could be 
used. At the insistence of the chief 
engineer, progress reports reflected 
physical completion, including extra 
work authorized during construction, 
rather than availability of facilities. 23 

By the end of May 1944 the construc- 
tion program was 97.5 percent com- 
plete except for hospitals and continu- 
ous maintenance (especially at airfields). 
Depots were 99.6 percent complete; 
accommodations, 98 percent; and hos- 
pitals, 93.9 percent. The estimated 
value of installations provided by 
American forces in the United King- 
dom as of 31 May was $991,441,000. 
New British construction cost an esti- 
mated $668,000,000. Of this total 



22 Ltr, OCE, EBS, to SOS ETOUSA, 5 Feb 44, sub: 
Project Study, OCE; Ltr, SOS ETOUSA to CG, ASF, 
14 Jan 45, sub: Rpt on Overseas Construction, AG 
600.1, ASF files. 

23 Ltr, OCE, SBS, to Chf Engr, 13 Aug 43, and Ltr, 
P. D. Berrigan to Engr, SBS, 20 Aug 43, sub: Con- 
struction Progress Rpts, both in 600 Rpts, EUCOM 
Engr files. 



264 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 




Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricants Depot, Lancashire 



$502,000,000 ($262,000,000 acquired, 
$240,000,000 constructed) involved air 
forces installations; $166,800,000 in- 
volved hospitals ($151 ,200,000 for new 
construction and $15,600,000 for ac- 
quired). Some $41,174,000 went to 
depots, all but $4,374,000 to new con- 
struction. The entire construction pro- 
gram encompassed 150,000 buildings 
and 50,000 tents. 24 

Depots 

In November and December 1942 
and January 1943 the chief engineer 



24 OCE ETOUSA Monthly Rpt 14, May 44; OCE 
ETOUSA Hisi Rpt 7, Field and Service Force Con- 
struction, p. 1 15; Berrigan jnlerv, 8 May 44. 



had cut back the depot program in 
ETOUSA and deferred work on some 
depots and shops. In February 1943, 
after the Casablanca Conference, Gen- 
eral Moore called upon the base sec- 
tion engineers to produce firm build- 
ing plans. The fourth Key Plan called 
for the completion of the depot pro- 
gram by 3 1 March 1 944, and its 1 8 mil- 
lion square feet of covered storage 
space was 20 percent more than in the 
second Key Plan. 25 By the time the 
fourth plan was announced in July 



25 OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 7, Field and Service Force 
Construction, pp. 128, 135, 190; Ltr, OCE ETOUSA 
to Base Section Engrs, 13 Jan 43, sub: Modifying Plan 
for Bolero Construction Program, 600. 1 , EUCOM 
Engr files. 



REVIVING BOLERO IN THE UNITED KINGDOM 



265 



1943, 13,398,000 square feet were 
ready. Open storage, which was to total 
34 million square feet, then amounted 
to 27 million. In addition, space was to 
be provided for 432,000 long tons of 
ammunition and 215,000 long tons of 
POL. 

Until well into 1943, the various ser- 
vices requiring depot space changed 
their requests from day to day. The 
British might move out of a selected 
depot site only to have the asking ser- 
vice turn down the site after all. In some 
such instances British civilian concerns 
had been put out of business in order 
to make facilities available. 26 But much 
of the work and storage space the Brit- 
ish provided was hard to adapt to mod- 
ern American methods. Many of the 
depots were too low and doors too 
narrow; many multistoried buildings 
had either very small elevators or none 
at all. Some of the depots were far 
inland and had only tenuous access to 
the ports from which the OVERLORD 
operation was to be mounted. To make 
requisitions coming from other techni- 
cal services more orderly and consistent, 
Colonel Lord required them to desig- 
nate liaison officers to the engineers 
managing the depot construction and 
acquisition program, but requirements 
continued to change and some difficul- 
ties with site selection persisted. 27 

As one answer to the time, labor, and 
construction materials problems, the 
chief engineer planned to use open 
fields for storage space whenever prac- 
ticable. In most cases roads and rail lines 
had to be brought to the site and the 



2(i OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpl 7, Field and Service Force 
Construction, apps. 8 and 9. 

27 Memo, Col Lord for Liaison Officers of Quarter- 
master Ordnance et al., 10 Feb 43, 600.1, EUCOM 
Engr files. 



ground conditioned to provide rapid 
drainage. The damp English climate 
was hard on the poorly packed sup- 
plies coming from the United States. 
These factors and difficulties in using 
British facilities made it necessary to 
raise estimates for covered storage. 

The depot program was not finished 
by the end of 1943. However, by 1 May 
1944, only 29,673 square feet of cov- 
ered storage in Southern Base Section 
(SBS) and 1,200,000 square feet of 
open storage in Western Base Section 
(WBS) were lacking. At the end of that 
month all but 7 percent of the work 
had been completed. 28 

Within the depots the American 
forces used several types of buildings. 
One of the first they tried was the Iris, 
a 35-foot-wide Nissen hut. The Nissen, 
a British development, was an igloo- 
like half cylinder made of steel. More 
successful was the Romney hut, similar 
to the Nissen but with a heavier frame. 
With special bolting the Romney proved 
to be an exceptionally tight structure. 
The Romney huts often had set-in win- 
dows, twelve on each side. The end 
walls were of brick, concrete, or, prefer- 
ably, sheeting, which permitted the use 
of sliding doors as well as a small access 
door. The foundation was continuous 
plain concrete footing, with an eight- 
inch brick foundation extending a mini- 
mum of four inches aboveground. The 
floor was five inches of concrete on four 
inches of gravel fill. The concrete apron 
that joined the building to a railroad 
siding was customarily six inches thick. 

The largest warehouses were of Mar- 
ston shedding which could provide rec- 
tangular buildings as large as 45-by- 



aN OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 7, Field and Service Force 
Construction, p. 128. 



266 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



250 feet. These consisted of structural 
steel frames, corrugated iron roofs, cor- 
rugated asbestos siding, and six-inch 
concrete floors. Large sliding doors 
were at each end. The higher ceiling in 
the Marstons made it possible to install 
two ten-ton overhead cranes. A railroad 
spur ran into one end of the buildings. 
Sometimes made of wood from pack- 
ing boxes and composite board panels, 
the Marston structures were ordinarily 
60 feet long with an 18 1/2-foot span. 
The wooden buildings were cheap and 
easy to knock down and transport but 
were so light that they had to be re- 
paired frequently. To save steel and 
wood, structures of curved asbestos and 
corrugated cement sheets with end 
walls of brick were also built. Some 
attempts were made to use precast 
concrete. 29 

About twenty-nine depots (each with 
an average of one hundred buildings) 
constituted the U.S. Army depot pro- 
gram in the United Kingdom. The con- 
struction of new covered storage and 
the expansion of existing facilities ac- 
counted for about one-fourth of the 
total space, while about one-half of the 
open storage and hardstandings was 
derived from new facilities and expan- 
sion. The estimated value of acquired 
depots was $4,374,000; that of new 
depots $36,800,000. Of covered stor- 
age and shop space the British turned 
over 67 percent and constructed 20 
percent; American engineers built 13 
percent. Of open storage and hard- 
standings the British turned over 51 
percent and built 13 percent while U.S. 
Army engineers provided 36 percent. 
For storing ammunition the British 



zn Waldo G. Bowman, "Engineers Overseas," Engi- 
neering News-Record, 26—27. 



turned over facilities to handle 33 per- 
cent of the job and constructed 27 
percent; American engineers con- 
structed 40 percent. Providing depot 
space for POL was largely an engineer 
job, with the British contributing only 
5 percent (3 percent in space turned 
over and 2 percent in new construc- 
tion). 30 

A ccommodations 

The first Key Plan did not provide 
for camp construction, for the British 
were to make available the necessary 
845,200 winterized accommodations. 
The second Key Plan did not break 
down the number of hut and tent 
camps that would have to be erected 
but mentioned a total of 845,000. In 
January 1943 ETOUSA announced 
that all small camp expansions that were 
50 percent or more complete could be 
finished; work on all others was to stop, 
at least temporarily. 31 At the end of Jan- 
uary some 65,000 spaces of the 137,000 
to be provided by camp expansions and 
new hutted camps were ready for use. 
More than 543,000 spaces already were 
available, for a total of slightly more 
than 600,000. The following month 
ETOUSA directed that accommoda- 
tions be completed by 15 October 1943, 
and any needed thereafter by 1 Decem- 
ber 1943. 32 

In January 1943 the British and 
Americans designated G— 3, ETOUSA, 
to supervise the preparation of a 
monthly priority list showing the units 



30 Adm 1 19, Engr Construction, ETOUSA Hist Sect. 

31 EUCOM Engr file 600.1. 

12 Unless otherwise cited this section on camp con- 
struction is based on OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 8, 
Quartering; Staff Conf Notes 1943, Adm 454 and 
455, ETOUSA Hist Sect. 



REVIVING BOLERO IN THE UNITED KINGDOM 



267 



to arrive in the ETO within the next 
month or within a longer period if such 
data were available. Called long-term 
forecast, the lists were derived from 
information the War Department pro- 
vided and from a convoy program the 
British quartermaster general pre- 
pared. At the same time the Allies 
agreed that each British military com- 
mand would provide holding areas for 
American units whose final locations 
had not been determined and for units 
that arrived unexpectedly. The Air 
Forces did not have to determine desti- 
nations for units in these long-term 
forecasts but coordinated its needs with 
the Air Ministry, not with the Ameri- 
can base sections or the War Office. 

Early in February 1943 the Construc- 
tion and Quartering Division of the the- 
ater engineer's office drew up plans for 
quartering U.S. troops expected in the 
United Kingdom by the end of the year. 
These forces would be located with a 
view to their future operational roles 
and available facilities and training 
areas. They would be quartered in tents 
between 15 March and 15 October. 

The quartering program did not 
make great strides in early 1943. 
Though the engineers were using over- 
all estimates of 1,1 18,000 arrivals listed 
in the second Key Plan, they were still 
working against the total of 427,000 
men established in the third Key Plan 
of November 1942 as a basis for calcu- 
lating accommodations. Even this fig- 
ure caused no sense of urgency; troops 
other than Air Forces were not arriv- 
ing in any great numbers. Of the 5,244 
men for whom quarters were found in 
April 1943, 4,873 were air personnel. 
Southern Base Section had at that time 
380,000 covered accommodations. 
Army engineers constructed space for 
60,000 and expanded existing struc- 



tures to take 60,000 more. In July 1943 
they widened the program to provide 
82,000 spaces: 52,000 for air forces 
personnel, 27,000 for SOS troops, and 
2,435 for ground forces increments. As 
of March 1943, no troops were housed 
under canvas. 

The first of a series of joint monthly 
forecasts concerning the arrival of 
American troops in the United King- 
dom appeared on 14 July 1943. From 
these engineers received word on units 
alerted in the United States for ship- 
ment to Europe but not always on sizes 
of convoys or timing of movements. 
News of a unit's scheduled arrival some- 
times reached England while the unit 
was at sea. As late as September Gen- 
eral Moore could not get accurate infor- 
mation on unit destinations. In mid- 
October, when the amended fourth 
Key Plan had raised estimates for 
accommodations to 1,060,000, Moore 
finally could announce that he had a 
construction program for the phased 
arrival of the growing swell of ground 
force units. 

By April 1944 the camp construction 
program had provided 1,296,890 ac- 
commodations in huts, tents, or billets. 
Of this figure, the British had turned 
over 40 percent and constructed for 
American use another 30 percent, leav- 
ing the remainder for American mili- 
tary construction crews. At the end of 
May 1944 the camps were 99.5 percent 
finished. A heavy concentration of tent 
cities, all in Southern Base Section, 
included 123,664 permanent tent ac- 
commodations and 49,302 temporary. 33 

Essential to providing quarters was 
determining living standards, which 
dictated space requirements. At first, 



33 OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 7, Field and Service Force 
Construction, pp, 115, 159, 193. 



268 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



the U.S. Army accepted for its ground 
and air forces the respective British 
standards. This practice made for two 
scales, with the USAAF's the higher. 34 
The accommodations provided officers 
under both standards were about the 
same, but the British provided thirty 
square feet per enlisted man and 
seventy-five per sergeant while the 
Americans provided thirty-five square 
feet per enlisted man regardless of 
grade. Taking over facilities from the 
British and making them meet U.S. 
Army standards usually involved reno- 
vations and minor alterations. In July 
1943 Lt. Gen. Jacob L. Devers, ETO- 
USA commander, concluded that the 
scale of accommodations for U.S. 
forces could be reduced to the British 
scale or its equivalent. The chief engi- 
neer and chief surgeon agreed that the 
best scheme was sixteen men per hut, 
or thirty-five square feet per noncom 
or enlisted man, and seventy-two square 
feet per officer. This "austerity scale" 
lay between the British and American 
standards. 

The Construction and Quartering 
Division, OCE, ETOUSA, had a num- 
ber of problems in carrying out its 
assignment. Frequently, units were un- 
willing to accept facilities the British 
offered, preferring newly constructed 
accommodations. Occasionally the ser- 
vices failed to turn in complete plans 
for quartering requirements, tending 
instead to submit their needs bit by bit. 
In addition, each time the staff of the 
using service changed, revised require- 
ments arose, for each new section chief 
had his own ideas on the subject. 35 



34 Moore interv. 

15 Interv, Col C.J. Barker, Chf, Ground Projects, 
C&Q Div, 12 May 44, Adm 122, ETOUSA Hist Sect. 



American officers added to the confu- 
sion by not following prescribed chan- 
nels in requesting facilities. 

Two varieties of billets were common 
outside the camps: furnished lodgings, 
which included the use of toilet facili- 
ties, water, and lighting; and furnished 
lodgings in which the U.S. Army pro- 
vided beds and the British water and 
lights. Although a British law required 
civilian householders to provide shel- 
ter for troops at a fixed rate, private 
billeting was on an entirely voluntary 
basis until the end of 1943. With the 
fourth Key Plan billeting became sys- 
tematized, and some forced billeting 
occurred. 

Hospitals 

In early 1942 the American forces 
used British and Canadian hospital ser- 
vices and operated a few British hospi- 
tals themselves. Members of the British 
Directorate of Fortifications and Works, 
the Ministry of Works and Planning, 
the U.S. Medical Department, and the 
Engineer Service drew up plans for new 
construction as well as for alterations 
to existing buildings. To speed matters 
the engineers, the Medical Department, 
and the British agreed on certain stan- 
dard designs for new hospitals and for 
converting existing facilities, subject to 
changes on advice of the chief surgeon. 
He frequently made adjustments be- 
cause of location, terrain, and special 
needs. 36 

Hospital floors gave the engineers 
trouble. Because concrete floors created 
considerable dust, they were covered 
with pitch mastic, but the black cover- 



36 EUCOM Engr file 600 H Gen, 1 Jul-31 Dec 43; 
OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 7, Field and Service Force 
Construction, p. 192. 



REVIVING BOLERO IN THE UNITED KINGDOM 



269 



ing showed dust and always looked 
dirty. A covering of oil and wax solved 
the problem in the wards but not in the 
psychiatric and operating wings, where 
static electricity could cause anesthetic 
gases to explode. Finally, a cement fin- 
ish treated with sodium silicate was sub- 
stituted for pitch mastic in operating 
rooms. 3 ' 

All through 1943 and early 1944, 
hospital construction lagged consider- 
ably. Because arable land was at a pre- 
mium, the British Ministry of Agricul- 
ture refused to approve many sug- 
gested sites, and locations became lim- 
ited mostly to parks and estates of the 
"landed gentry." Inadequate transpor- 
tation to haul materials to the sites also 
slowed work. Since labor and materials 
came through different agencies, one 
or the other often was not available 
when needed. Labor shortages held up 
all construction, especially for the hos- 
pital program. 38 The lag in hospital con- 
struction was not too serious, for the 
full capacity of hospitals would not be 
needed until casualties started coming 
back from the Continent. On 31 May 
1944, just one week before the invasion, 
the hospital program was 94 percent 
complete. 

The Manpower Shortage 

Personnel became General Moore's 
most abiding concern in 1943. As the 
year began, only 21,601 U.S. Army 
engineers were in the United Kingdom, 
with just 9,727 allotted to the Services 
of Supply. Many SOS engineer troops 



37 Rpt of Inspection Trip ot CG, SOS, and Party to 
DepChfEngr, ETOUSA, 18 Nov 43; Adm 119, Engr 
Construction, ETOUSA Hist Sect. 

3M Interv, Col C.J. Barker, Chf, Ground Projects, 
C&Q Div, 12 May 44, Adm 122. 



were still in the labor pool that manned 
depots supporting the North African 
invasion. General Moore explored all 
avenues to solve manpower problems. 
Some aid came from tactical units, in- 
cluding USAAF organizations, and, on 
the hospital program, from Medical 
Department personnel and even conva- 
lescent patients. Considerable reliance 
also had to be placed on British civilian 



British Labor 

Civilian labor was an important as- 
pect of Reverse Lend- Lease. In Decem- 
ber 1942 British and U.S. Army offi- 
cials established procedures for employ- 
ing British civilians. Pooling their 
limited civilian labor force, the British 
allocated civilians according to priori- 
ties the War Cabinet set, while contracts 
and contractual changes were made to 
fit existing priorities. For ground pro- 
jects the order of priority was depots, 
camps, and hospitals. 40 

In April 1943 approximately half of 
the 120,000 British civilians assigned 
to the BOLERO program were working 
on American engineer projects — 30,000 
on air force and 28,000 on ground 
force projects. Complaining that the 
shortage of British labor was delaying 
completion of BOLERO, engineers at 
SOS, ETOUSA, constantly demanded 
more civilian help. The British govern- 
ment did what it could, but the supply 
was limited; indeed, the British had to 
cut the civilian work force in the spring 
and summer of 1943 to meet domestic 
demands for agriculture and industry. 



:ii 'OCE ETOUSA Monthly Rpt, Sep 43 dated 15 
Oct 43, p. 16; Moore, Final Report, p. 247. 

40 OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 6, Air Force Construction, 
p. 21; Moore, Final Report, p. 247. 



270 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



By 1 September 1943, more American 
engineers than British civilians were 
working on U.S. Army projects, and 
the differential grew larger as more 
American engineer troops arrived in 
the United Kingdom. 41 

The British civilian labor force was 
the product of a nation already drained 
by three years of war. Consisting of 
older men and boys below draft age, 
the work crews were neither well trained 
nor effective without close supervision. 
They worked an average of seven hours 
a day, less than troop labor. British 
habit dictated a 28-day work month, 
with alternate Sundays off; frequent 
holidays cut into the work schedules. 
British workers also had many absences 
due to colds and influenza. 

British insistence on semipermanent 
rather than temporary structures slowed 
the construction program. The Minis- 
try of Works continued to justify more 
sturdy buildings since they were to be 
used after the war. There was an eight- 
month difference in the time needed 
to complete contracted airfield construc- 
tion jobs. U.S. Army engineers took 
13 1/2 months to construct a heavy 
bomber base while British civilian con- 
tractors needed two years to finish the 
same type of project with their limited 
work force and lighter equipment. 42 On 
the other hand, not all American engi- 



41 Ltr, OCE to G-4, 27 Apr 43, 381, Boi f.ro, 
USFET Key Plan H 1942-43; Ltr, Moore to G-4, 24 
Apr 43, sub: Labor Requirements for U.S. Construc- 
tion Program, 231.4, Labor, 30 Oct 42-31 Oct 44, 
EUCOM Engr Files. 

42 Interv, Col C. J. Barker, Chf, Ground Projects, 
C&Q Div, 12 May 44, Adm 122; OCE ETOUSA Hist 
Rpt 6, Air Force Construction, p. 21; Ltr, OCE, EBS, 
to SOS ETOUSA, 5 Feb 44, sub: Project Study, 601 
P&Q Gen, Apr-Aug 43, EUCOM Engr files; OCE 
ETOUSA Hist Rpt 7, Field and Service Force Con- 
struction, p. 87; Hist 359th Engr GS Rgt. 



neer units coming into England lived 
up to expectations. 

Field Force Units on Construction Jobs 

Engineer combat battalions were 
available for construction work from 
late July until 11 December 1943, when 
they were to be released for invasion 
training. By the end of July the num- 
ber of field force engineers on construc- 
tion tasks had risen to 11,233 — more 
than twice the number available in 

J 43 
une. 

Although SOS, ETOUSA, which for 
months had been calling for the high- 
est shipping priority for its units, had 
succeeded in obtaining a very high pri- 
ority for engineer construction units in 
November 1943, the buildup of SOS 
engineer units was slow, complicated 
by uncertainty over the ultimate size of 
the invasion forces and changes in the 
troop basis. The shipment of service 
units began to improve in September 
1943, but not enough to meet the dead- 
line for the release of field force engi- 
neers. In October engineer combat bat- 
talions were extended on construction 
jobs until 31 January 1944. Combat 
group headquarters as well as light 
equipment, maintenance, and dump 
truck companies were also pressed into 
service. At the end of the year the dead- 
line date was extended again; some 
units were assigned to construction 
indefinitely. In the spring of 1944 sev- 
eral engineer camouflage battalions 
were added to the construction force. 44 



43 Ltr, OCE ETOUSA to the Engrs, SBS, EBS, WBS, 
etc., 25 Jul 43, sub: Proposed Allocation of Ground 
Construction Units, 600 Gen; EUCOM Engr files; 
OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 7, Field and Service Force 
Construction, p. 85. 

44 Staff Conf Notes, 1 1 Oct 43, Adm 454, ETOUSA 
Hist Sect; AGF Bd Rpt 162, NATOUSA. 



REVIVING BOLERO IN THE UNITED KINGDOM 



271 



In December 1943 five of eight non- 
divisional engineer combat battalions, 
one combat regiment, and one light 
equipment company — all from the field 
forces — were still attached to SOS for 
construction. Two months later nine 
combat battalions, a maintenance com- 
pany, and a light equipment company 
were still assigned to construction tasks. 
In late March the numbers dropped 
sharply. Only a few field force engi- 
neers remained on construction jobs, 
and most ground force engineer units 
turned to training for the invasion. 45 

U.S. Army engineers on construction 
jobs numbered 40,436 on 1 September 
1943; 49,000 at the end of October 
(28,000 on ground projects, 21,000 on 
air force projects); 55,027 at the end of 
the following month; and 56,000 at the 
close of the year. Peak strength came 
in March 1944 with 61,000 engineers 
working on construction projects 
(35,500 men on ground and 25,500 on 
air force jobs). At the end of May, a 
week before the invasion, 13,794 engi- 
neers were still engaged in construc- 
tion. 46 

The effectiveness of field force, SOS, 
and aviation engineers on construction 
jobs decreased — and motor mainte- 
nance increased — because units were 
split to work on widely scattered jobs. 
The 1323d Engineer General Service 
Regiment at one time was scattered over 
an area 200 miles long and 80 miles 
wide. Elements of the 346th Engineer 
General Service Regiment were sepa- 
rated for nineteen months, assembling 
as a complete unit only in April 1944. 
The 342d Engineer General Service 



45 OCE ETOUSA Monthly Rpt 1 1 , Feb 44, dated 15 
Mar 44. 

1,1 Ibid.; 12, Mar 44; and 14, May 44. 



Regiment had no unit larger than a bat- 
talion in the same area between 12 July 

1942 and 31 December 1943. 47 

The quality of engineer units work- 
ing at construction jobs ranged from 
very good to marginally effective. The 
absence of planning by officers and 
noncoms caused inefficiency. Some 
engineer units on construction jobs 
lacked specialists in steel, brick, and 
electrical work, and men had to be 
trained in these skills. Many officers 
lacked either administrative ability or 
technical knowledge. 48 

The shortage of officers with con- 
struction and engineering experience 
persisted throughout the war in almost 
every type of unit. In the summer of 

1943 a civilian consultant from the 
United States found a greater need for 
training among officers than enlisted 
men. "Civilian experience of the offi- 
cers," he remarked, "in many cases does 
not exist." 49 General Moore felt that, 
considering the large number of peo- 
ple who had engineering education, "a 
very poor job was done" in getting the 
proper personnel into the engineers. 50 

Engineers at the Depots 

In January 1943 ETOUSA had only 
one engineer depot company split 
among three depots to process engi- 
neer supplies for units in the United 
Kingdom and for TORCH organiza- 



47 OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 7, Field and Service Force 
Construction, pp. 86-87; Hist 1323d Engr GS Rgt. 
Mar 44; Hist 342d Engr GS Rgt. 

48 Operation of GS Rgts, Dec 43, Incl to Ltr, Engr 
School to Chf Engr, 28 Dec 43, OCE; OCE ETOUSA 
Hist Rpt 1, Organization, Administration, and Per- 
sonnel, p. 46. 

49 Rpt, Paul M. King, Engr Training Mission in 
England, 26 May-24 Aug 43, OCE 413.8 (ETO). 

Moore interv. 



272 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



tions. Three companies of an engineer 
aviation battalion, the 347th Engineer 
General Service Regiment, and several 
separate engineer battalions provided 
temporary help at the depots. As the 
number and size of depots grew, decen- 
tralization became necessary. In Febru- 
ary 1943 operational control of the 
depots passed from the Supply Division, 
OCE, ETOUSA, to the base sections. 

Depot operations improved mark- 
edly as the base sections assumed more 
control over supply. By August 1943 
the base sections were exercising inter- 
nal management of all previously ex- 
empted depot activities and were free 
of the limitations of Class II and IV 
supply levels imposed on their counter- 
parts in the United States. The new 
authority made the engineer represen- 
tatives in the United Kingdom base sec- 
tions responsible to their base section 
commanders rather than to General 
Moore, though he still retained limited 
technical supervision. 52 

The engineers stocked their supp lies 
in three types of depots. (Map 13) Re- 
serve depots stocked an assortment of 
items, in large enough quantities for 
overseas use, that were issued to units 
in the United Kingdom only when the 
British could not provide them. Key 
depots stored and issued selected items 
for specific purposes. Distribution 
depots stored and issued all types of 
supplies and equipment. By 1944 twelve 
engineer depots, both solely engineer 
and engineer subdepots at general 
depots, had been set up — one in North- 



51 Memo, Col R. B. Lord for G- 1.22 Jan 43, 600- 
A-Gen (1 Jan-28 Feb 43), EUCOM Engr files; Draft, 
Talk on C&Q Div based on second and third Key 
Bolero Plans, 325.51, Policies & Plans, EUCOM Engr 
files. 

52 Status Rpts, 30 Nov 42-3 Jul 43, 319.1, EUCOM 
Engr files; OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 3, Supply. 



ern Ireland Base Section, three in East- 
ern Base Section, and four each in 
Southern Base Section and Western 
Base Section. By 31 March 1944, these 
twelve had provided a total of 
17,143,914 square feet of storage space, 
of which 1,161,452 was covered stor- 
age space, 15,909,694 square feet was 
open, and 72,768 square feet was shop 
space. 53 

The number and type of units per- 
forming engineer supply operations 
varied from depot to depot. The larg- 
est engineer section was at Newbury in 
Southern Base Section. With little cov- 
ered storage, the section handled mainly 
heavy and bulky stores. The engineer 
section at Ashchurch handled a variety 
of heavy and bulky supplies, small parts, 
tools, and spare parts. Another depot 
held Class IV supply, most of it re- 
served for Continental operations, in 
open storage. This practice involved 
considerable risk, especially in winter, 
since iron and steel items with ma- 
chined or unpainted surfaces left in the 
open rusted. 

The troops at engineer depots fell 
into two categories, engineer depot 
operating units — companies and group 
headquarters — and quartermaster labor, 
referred to as "touch labor." In July 
1943, with only two depot companies 
and two base depot companies on hand, 



m OCE ETOUSA Monthly Rpt 5, Aug 43, and 10, 
Jan 44; MS, T/4 Russell M. Viets, Construction in the 
United Kingdom, Oct 44, p. 29. 

54 Corresp between Quartermaster Gen and Chf 
Engr, ETOUSA, 8 Aug 43, 320.3, Jun 42 -Jan 44, 
EUCOM Engr files; Ur, U Col J. H. Pengilly, Chf, 
Engr Service, NYPOE, to Overseas Supply Officer, 
NYPOE, 23 Apr 44, sub: Rpt of Liaison Mission to 
ETO, 519.1 (ETO), OCE (hereafter cited as Pengilly 
Rpt); Progress Rpt XCIX, 12 Jun 44, Statistics Sect, 
Sec Gen Staff, HQ, ETOUSA; Cir 18, 7 Nov 43, sub: 
Rust Prevention at Engr Depots, Adm 124, ETOUSA 
Hist Sect. 




MAP 13 



274 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



the shortage of depot personnel was 
critical. By mid-September the U.S. 
engineers were running seven depots 
(soon to be eight) with five depot and 
base depot companies. Three of these 
units had been in the theater less than 
eighty days and were of limited value — 
a depot company needed ninety days 
of experience in the United Kingdom 
before it could be expected to carry its 
full share of work. Neither officers nor 
enlisted men had had much practical 
experience before going overseas be- 
cause civilians ran U.S. depots. For 
many of the engineers, training in the 
United States consisted of only six 
weeks in the field or on maneuvers, 
during which time the depot units had 
only one or two transactions to handle. 
Approximately 30 percent of the engi- 
neer supplies handled in the United 
Kingdom were of British manufacture, 
and their nomenclature could be 
learned only in the United Kingdom. 55 
Since only a small portion of engi- 
neer supplies could be manhandled, a 
large number of crane operators and 
riggers was needed. Men with such 
skills were not often available in the 
small quartermaster labor force or in 
the engineer depot companies. The 
445th Engineer Base Depot Company, 
as an example, arrived in August 1943 
and immediately began operating the 
engineer section of a major depot at 
Sudbury. The men often spent eigh- 



55 OCE ETOUSA Monthly Rpt 7, Oct 43; and 8, 
Nov 43; Ltr, Ofc CW to Dep Engr, 17 Sep 43, sub: 
Depot Personnel, 322, Depots, EUCOM Engr files; 
Rpt, 1st Lt Eugene N. Nelson, sub: Spare Parts for 
Engr Equip in ETO, 475, Engr Equipment, Dec 
42-Dec 43, EUCOM Engr files (hereafter cited as 
Nelson Rpt); Rpt, Lt Col John H. Hassinger for the 
Chf, Tractor and Crane Sect, OCE WD, to Gen Moore, 
Chf Engr, ETOUSA, sub: A Rpt of Trip to ETO, 10 
Oct- 10 Nov 43, 319.1, Rpts (Gen), EUCOM Engr 
files. 



teen to twenty hours at a stretch trying 
to learn their tasks. The unit was con- 
stantly short of labor and equipment, 
especially of material-handling equip- 
ment, which had to be overworked and 
ultimately broke down completely. 56 

The engineers employed various ex- 
pedients to overcome the personnel 
shortage. The few well-trained depot 
companies (such as the 397th) were 
split, usually three ways, and dispersed 
so that all engineer depots would have 
at least some trained personnel. Depots 
used men from dump truck, heavy 
equipment, and general service organi- 
zations, a last-ditch expedient since iden- 
tification of various items of engineer 
equipment and supplies was a difficult 
job requiring alertness and training. 

The number of engineers at depots 
increased slowly to 5,400 at the end of 
January 1944, 6,200 by the end of 
February, 6,500 the next month, and 
7,500 by the end of April. Then non- 
divisional engineer field units had to 
be called in to help. 57 The shortage of 
depot personnel, especially crane oper- 
ators, riggers, and trained clerical help, 
hindered engineer depot work all 
through 1943 and well into 1944. 
Trained crane operators were as scarce 
as cranes, and the fumbling efforts of 
untrained operators added to spare 
part and repair problems. 58 

Equipment Maintenance 

Engineers in the United Kingdom 



56 Hist 445th Engr Base Depot Co. 

57 Nelson Rpt; OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 3, Supply; 
OCE ETOUSA Monthly Rpts 10-14, Jan-jun 44. 

58 IRS, Capt Dunbar to SD, 30 Dec 43, sub: Rpt on 
G-4 Inspection, 29 Dec 43, 681, Depots General, 
EUCOM Engr files; OCE ETOUSA Monthly Rpt 4, 
Jul 43; 7, Oct 43; and 8, Nov 43; Mins Depot Mtg, 25 
Oct 43, 319.1, Materiel Rpts, EUCOM Engr files. 



REVIVING BOLERO IN THE UNITED KINGDOM 



275 



sorely needed more third echelon main- 
tenance companies equipped with mo- 
bile shop trailers to make field repairs 
and replace major unit assemblies at 
construction sites, depots, or wherever 
the engineers needed more extensive 
equipment maintenance than they could 
accomplish with their own second eche- 
lon tools and parts. In his first monthly 
report to the United States in April 
1943 General Moore emphasized this 
shortage. In May 10 percent of all engi- 
neer equipment was deadlined for third 
echelon maintenance repairs with an 
additional 5 percent deadlined for 
fourth echelon repairs. Fourth and fifth 
echelon maintenance repair was the 
responsibility of heavy shop companies 
which provided base shop facilities and, 
when necessary, manufactured equip- 
ment either at mobile heavy duty shops 
or at large, centrally located fixed shops. 
Mobile shops provided emergency and 
general-purpose repair and welding 
service. 5 

The absence of heavy shop compa- 
nies at some base sections placed an 
additional burden on third echelon 
companies, and their efforts to under- 
take major repairs for which they were 
not equipped often resulted in delay or 
unsatisfactory work. To improve mat- 
ters General Moore assigned special 
maintenance officers to each base sec- 
tion to coordinate the work of the main- 
tenance and heavy shop companies and 
the spare parts depots. But the short- 
age of maintenance companies per- 
sisted, and at the end of November 
1943 there were only seven such units 



in the European Theater of Operations. 
At that time the Supply Division, OCE, 
WD, felt that maintenance in the United 
Kingdom was not more than 75 per- 
cent adequate. 60 

When preventive maintenance such 
as lubrication and cleaning by equip- 
ment operators was inadequate, the 
maintenance companies' work load in- 
creased. Often the equipment opera- 
tor received neither proper tools nor 
supervision, nor were sufficient peri- 
odic inspections made. Careless han- 
dling of equipment by inexperienced 
operators added to the problem. Fre- 
quently, equipment was turned into the 
engineer maintenance companies for 
third and higher echelon repair in a 
"partially dismantled condition," short 
many parts. 61 

Spare Parts 

Obtaining first echelon spare parts 
such as spark plugs, fan belts, bolts, 
nuts, cotter pins, and lock washers and 
second echelon carburetors, fuel oil and 
water pumps, distributors, gaskets, and 
various clutch, brake, and chassis parts 
was a constant problem, partly because 
of poor procurement procedures — too 
few short-lived parts and too many 
long-lived ones. The engineers' prob- 
lem was aggravated by the large num- 
ber of nonstandard pieces of equip- 



5y OCE ETOUSA Monthly Rpt, Apr 43; MS, Eche- 
lon System of Engr Maintenance; Plan for SOS 
ETOUSA, vol. II, Supply, Installations, Transporta- 
tion, Maintenance, 1 Jan 44, Adm 375, ETOUSA Hist 
Sect. 



Bu Ltr, Moore to Chf of Adm, 30 Nov 43, app. 15 to 
OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 1, Organization, Administra- 
tion, and Personnel; Ltr, OCE ETOUSA to SBS, WBS, 
and EBS Engrs, 15 May 43, sub: Maintenance of Engr 
Equipment, 475, Engr Equipment, Dec 42— Dec 43, 
EUCOM Engr files; Coll, Keith, and R osenthal , The 
Corps of Engineers: Troops and Equipment, |p. 57 1| 

si Ltr, Chf Engr, SOS ETOUSA, to CG, CBS et al., 2 
Feb 44, sub: Maintenance of Engr Equipment, Engr 
Maim Co, 1942-43, EUCOM Engr files; Staff Conf 
Notes, 12 Apr 43, Adm 455, ETOUSA Hist Sect. 



276 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



ment — British-made or U.S. items made 
to British specifications — for which 
parts were often unavailable. 62 

The first engineer spare parts depot 
began operating at Ashchurch in the 
spring of 1943. In June the first of the 
specialized spare parts companies to 
arrive in the theater, the 752d Engi- 
neer Parts Supply Company, took over 
the depot. Several similar companies 
arrived from the United States during 
the summer and fall, enabling the the- 
ater engineer to set up spare parts sub- 
depots at Conington, Sudbury, and 
Histon and to establish an effective daily 
courier system between the subdepots 
and the general depot at Ashchurch. 63 

The spare parts companies did excel- 
lent work, constructing most of their 
own bins and, despite the handicap 



62 MS, Echelon System of Engr Maintenance; Ltr, 
Moore to CG, NYPOE, 24 Apr 44, sub: Expeditious 
Shipment of Spare Paris for Engr Equipment, ETO 
400, OCE; Hist 482d Engr Maint Co. 

,,s Hists, 491st Engr Equip Co and 752d, 751st, 756th 
Engr Parts Supply Cos; Memo for Capt Austen, 16 
Nov 43, File J.A.T. S-Miscel. 



imposed by a lack of training and prop- 
er equipment, reducing substantially 
the large backlog. In conjunction with 
the engineer heavy shop companies, the 
parts supply units salvaged or reclaimed 
many parts that might otherwise have 
been lost. In early 1944, as the days 
grew longer, the companies worked two 
and even three shifts. Despite these 
efforts the shortage of spare parts, par- 
ticularly such vital items as cranes, con- 
tinued to be a serious concern to engi- 
neer planners as preparations acceler- 
ated for the invasion of Europe. 64 

The Continent assumed an ever- 
larger share of the attention of the 
Allied and theater planning staffs in 
England in the latter part of 1943. 
Across the Channel lay a host of engi- 
neering problems associated with the 
projected invasion of German-occupied 
territory and the maintenance of armies 
there for the final phases of the war. 

M Hist 756th Engr Parts Supply Co; Wkly Rpts, Sup- 
ply Div, OCE ETOUSA, 12 May 43 and 24 Aug 43; 
Pengilly Rpt. 



CHAPTER XIII 



Looking Ahead to the Continent 



Detailed engineer planning for a 
Continental invasion continued in 1943 
with the addition of a forecasting tech- 
nique imposed upon theater planners 
by ASF headquarters in Washington. 
To involve theater staffs around the 
world in procurement planning for 
major operations Army Service Forces 
had devised a system of so-called opera- 
tional or keyed projects. Theater plan- 
ners were to compile lists of Class IV 
and Class II items (in excess of regular 
TOE and TBA allotments) and to key 
the requested items to specific and fore- 
seeable tasks such as the reconstruction 
of an individual port. 

On 4 June 1943, the War Depart- 
ment directed ETOUSA to begin study- 
ing what equipment would be needed 
for an invasion of the Continent. These 
studies were known in England as Pro- 
jects for Continental Operations, or 
PROCO. Their objective was to allow 
ASF ample time to procure from Ameri- 
can industry major items of machinery 
and specialized equipment and have 
them on hand in the New York Port of 
Embarkation for shipping as theater 
users requested them. The forecasting 
system required detailed information 
on numbers of items needed, intended 
use, tonnage estimates, and operational 
justification. Not intended as requisi- 
tions in themselves, the project require- 
ment statements went directly to the 



War Department for action. The 
PROCO system produced some suc- 
cesses but in many ways ran afoul of 
realities and practices in the theater. 1 

Engineer PROCO Projects 

Engineer PROCO studies began with 
some confusion. When the technical 
services involved in PROCO planning 
began their work, formal Allied agree- 
ment to the OVERLORD concept was still 
three months away. Upon receiving 
word of the War Department's require- 
ments, General Moore protested that 
he needed basic data on eight separate 
aspects of the forthcoming operation 
in order to proceed with operational or 
keyed planning. Specifically, his engi- 
neer staff needed to know the maxi- 
mum size of the assault force, the ap- 
proximate size of forces expected to 
be employed on the Continent on D 
plus 90, maximum forces to be employed 
in active operations, the number of lines 
of communications, the number of ports 
to be built or rebuilt, the number of 
airfields required in each calendar quar- 
ter through the end of 1944, the state 



1 Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies, Volume 
I, pp. 260—68; Coakley and Leighton, Global Logistics 
and Strategy, 1943 - 45, pp. 129-30, 166-68; Annual 
Report of the Army Service Forces for the Fiscal Year 1944 
(Washington, 1944), pp. 11-12. 



278 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



of repair of facilities in France, and an 
evaluation of areas to be occupied on 
the Continent as of the end of 1944. 
While American engineer members of 
COSSAC gathered some of the data, 
General Lee provided the basis of engi- 
neer supply planning for the majority 
of PROCO projects on 24 June. 2 

In a letter of instruction to his subor- 
dinate SOS elements Lee listed the 
objectives for what he described as a 
ROUNDUP-type operation. American 
forces ashore in France by D plus 30 
would number 480,000; 985,000 were 
expected by D plus 90. To support this 
strength, two one hundred-mile-long 
lines of communications were to be 
operating by D plus 90, and by D plus 
240, or the end of 1944, the lines were 
expected to be two hundred miles long. 
On D plus 90 two additional lines of 
communications were to open to receive 
supplies shipped directly from the Unit- 
ed States to the European mainland. 
The overall plan called for four major 
and eight minor ports to be fully opera- 
tional by D plus 240. On these assump- 
tions the engineers worked all summer, 
with each division of the theater en- 
gineer's office responsible for its as- 
signed portion of the thirty categories 
of engineer functions represented in 
the PROCO statements. They divided 
delivery schedules according to the 
planning timetable General Lee had 
described, earmarking materiel for ship- 
ment in the first ninety days after the 
invasion or for D plus 91 to D plus 240. 
With D-day later set tentatively for 1 
May 1944, the engineers wanted to have 
75 percent of the equipment and sup- 
ply for the first ninety-day phase on 
hand in the United Kingdom by 1 Janu- 



2 OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 3, Supply, p. 29. 



ary 1944. Materiel for the second peri- 
od was to be in the theater ninety days 
before it was needed. By late September, 
they had sent to Washington twenty- 
eight studies with tonnage estimates 
totaling 1,136,713 long tons. 3 

Differing views on the purpose of 
PROCO and on the proper content of 
PROCO studies also fueled lively corre- 
spondence between the theater and the 
War Department through the summer. 
In late June 1943 General Lee asserted 
that requisitions for the material listed 
in the theater PROCO studies would 
be appended to those studies. Though 
this was not the original scheme for the 
keyed projects, the War Department 
acquiesced in the procedure on 25 July. 
In September the War Department 
complained about the content of some 
of the submitted studies, citing espe- 
cially quartermaster PROCO submis- 
sions for medals and decorations, bread- 
sacks, and standard two-inch plugs for 
gasoline cans. The engineers' submis- 
sions conformed to the letter and the 
spirit of the ASF program, but engi- 
neer planners often neglected to iden- 
tify those items that could be procured 
in England through reverse lend-lease. 
Though these items were to be in- 
cluded in the studies, the PROCO pro- 
cedures called for flagging them with 
asterisks in the material lists. Once 
the British had supplied the items, the 
theater would notify the War Depart- 
ment to cancel them in the PROCO 
studies. 4 

In Washington, engineer PROCO 
projects followed a tortuous path. From 



3 Ltr, CG, SOS, 24 Jun 43, sub: Projects for a Conti- 
nental Operation, as cited in Ibid., p. 31. 

4 OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 3, Supply, app. 21, PROCO 
Procedures; ETO Gen Bd Rpt 128, Logistical Build-up 
in the British Isles, p. 20. 



LOOKING AHEAD TO THE CONTINENT 



279 



the War Department adjutant general 
they went to the director of plans and 
operations, ASF, who was responsible 
for control until the projects were ap- 
proved. The director of plans, ASF, 
sent the studies to the Logistics Group, 
Operations Division, War Department 
General Staff, which determined wheth- 
er the projects were necessary. The 
director of plans, ASF, next forwarded 
the studies to OCE, WD. OCE decided 
whether each project was necessary and 
adequate, from both technical and tacti- 
cal standpoints. OCE then edited the 
bill of materials based on availability 
and corrected all nomenclature and cat- 
alogue numbers. The director of plans, 
ASF, then sent the projects to the direc- 
tor of the Requirements Division, ASF, 
who determined whether the require- 
ments Fitted into worldwide plans for 
each item or whether the Army Supply 
Program would have to be changed. 
The projects again went through the 
director of plans, ASF, to the Logistics 
Branch, OPD, for approval and finally 
to G-4, War Department General Staff, 
for concurrence. The approved pro- 
jects then became the basis upon which 
the engineers in the United Kingdom 
requisitioned Class IV items from the 
United States. 5 

Confusion existed for a time at the 
New York Port of Embarkation because 
ETOUSA included in PROCO tonnage 
figures all of the Class IV operational 
needs estimated before PROCO began. 
NYPOE, on the other hand, had ac- 
counted only for tonnages submitted 
as PROCO projects. Wide discrepan- 
cies in the records of shipments ASF, 



5 Rpt, Maj John A. Thetford to CE, 20 Dec 43, sub: 
Rpt on Trip to United States, 333, Inspections, EUCOM 
Engr files; Ltr, Francis H. Oxx to Engr, Third Army, 
28 Mar 44, sub: Engr Supply, file 381 PROCO. 



NYPOE, and ETOUSA maintained ad- 
ded to the confusion. For example, ASF 
figures included items released for ship- 
ment to the United Kingdom. ASF con- 
sidered them delivered, but these fig- 
ures were meaningless to the engineers 
in the United Kingdom because some 
time elapsed between the date items 
were released in the United States and 
their arrival in theater. As late as March 
1944 the OCE Supply Division esti- 
mated that 120 days were required for 
delivery of supplies from the United 
States after requisitions had been placed, 
assuming the supplies were actually 
available in U.S. Army depots. There- 
fore the division felt it was necessary to 
provide the United States with estimates 
of Class IV supplies required for the 
next fifteen months. 6 

By the end of April 1944, shipments 
of engineer supplies from the United 
States, particularly materials requested 
under PROCO, were seriously behind 
schedule— a backlog of 320,278 long 
tons existed. The situation improved 
only somewhat during May, with 
246,521 long tons still overdue. Mean- 
while, engineer projects had been placed 
in a common pool with all others. Sup- 
plies and equipment were issued based 
on established priorities to organiza- 
tions having approved projects whether 
or not the specific supplies had arrived. 
Along with other services and com- 
mands the engineers were given a credit 
and a priority on the central pool based 
on their project submissions or their 
project supply allocation. This system 



6 Ltr, Lt Col J. H. Pengilly, Chf, Engr Service, 
NYPOE, to Overseas Supply Ofc, NYPOE, 23 Apr 
44, sub: Rpt of Liaison Mission to ETO, File 519.1 
(ETO), OCE; Ltr, Oxx to Engr, First Army et al., 12 
Mar 44, sub: Time Factor in Engr Supply, 381 Supply, 
EUCOM Engr files. 



280 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 




Bulldozers at the Engineer Depot at Thatcham Before the Invasion 



enabled using units to check equipment 
issued in the United Kingdom for com- 
pleteness and workability before they 
departed for the Continent. 7 

Planning for Construction on the Continent 

When PROCO projects began the 
ETOUSA engineers were already well 
aware of the problems involved in esti- 
mating materials and troop labor that 
would be needed for heavy construc- 
tion on the Continent. Such activities 
normally fell into seven broad cate- 
gories: ports, railways, roads, pipelines, 
inland waterways, utility systems, and 



7 OCE ETOUSA Monthly Rpt 13, Apr 44, and 14, 
May 44; Pengilly Rpt. 



general construction such as hospitals, 
shops, depots, and troop housing. 8 

Lacking firm plans for specific opera- 
tions, engineer planners at COSSAC 
drew up a comprehensive list of all the 
engineer Class IV supplies that would 
be needed for a large overseas operation. 
The planners considered every activity 
that would need engineer Class IV 
items and set up units of supply corre- 
sponding to each activity. The set of staff 
tables they developed could be used to 
compute supplies for regular engineer 
operations and for the PROCO studies. 
The tables also proved useful to plan- 

8 Lt. Col. S. A. Potter, "Engineer Construction Plan- 
ning for Operation Overlord," Military Review, XXX 
(December 1950), 3. Unless otherwise noted, this sec- 
tion on construction is based on this source. 



LOOKING AHEAD TO THE CONTINENT 



281 





Engineer Crane Stacks Lumber at Thatcham, April 1944 



ners of other services who wanted quick 
estimates of engineer work. The esti- 
mates varied greatly in kind — from 
requirements for a mile of railroad 
track to complete details for building 
and equipping a 1,000-bed hospital. 

Even after more definite information 
on OVERLORD became available in July 
1943, engineer planners were ham- 
pered — more than the other services — 
because the demand for the utmost 
secrecy deprived them of information 
on specific terrain. At the insistence of 
the' chief engineer security was relaxed, 
and the details of OVERLORD were 
revealed in the late summer of 1943. 
Theoretically, planners could then study 
the specific ports, rail lines, and high- 
ways involved, but the need for long- 



range procurement action and for time 
to activate and train engineer units 
made only changing estimates possible. 

Ports that could serve the Allied in- 
vaders came under close scrutiny in a 
series of PROCO studies. Prompted by 
the belief, later confirmed at Naples, 
that the Germans would destroy any 
suitable harbors to thwart Allied efforts 
to seize them, the engineers tried to 
forecast the reconstruction job expected 
in each port covered in PROCO plan- 
ning. They continued the work of a 
port committee established early in 
1943 under a British officer to chart 
the capacities of ports from the Nether- 
lands to the Spanish border. Eventu- 
ally planners included for consideration 
only eighteen ports in the Brittany and 



282 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



Normandy peninsulas. On 12 August 
1943, the ASF received an exhaustive 
PROCO study covering Class II and 
Class IV construction material and spe- 
cial equipment deemed necessary to 
reopen Cherbourg, an important objec- 
tive in the final OVERLORD plan. 9 

When planning for specific ports 
proved virtually impossible without 
knowledge of port conditions and facili- 
ties, the engineers turned to more gen- 
eralized methods of construction plan- 
ning. They first correlated the planning 
demands to a fixed length of quay. 
Then, taking the OVERLORD phased 
tonnage requirements for the invasion, 
they tied the phased capacity to the fig- 
ures they had derived for the fixed pier 
length. One ton of cargo per linear foot 
of pier per day became the standard 
engineer planning yardstick for port 
reconstruction. These data were com- 
bined with others to produce master 
lists and general requirements requisi- 
tions for the Continent. 

French harbors had silted up during 
the enforced inactivity under German 
occupation, and it would take exten- 
sive dredging to clear them for the sort 
of supply operations envisioned in the 
invasion plan. The Germans were also 
likely to sink blockships and other obsta- 
cles in the harbor channels and along- 
side berthing areas. The engineers took 
into account the amounts of explosives 
or specialized equipment needed to 
remove the blockages. They also re- 
quested specially designed shallow-draft 
port repair ships, to remain under 
Army control, that would provide float- 
ing machine shops to maintain construc- 
tion equipment in use or to make re- 



9 Annual Report of the ASF, 1944, p. 12. 



placement parts for damaged lock gates 
and power plants. 

The engineers attempted to develop 
standard repair methods and bills of 
materials for the lines of communica- 
tions and supply leading out of the port 
areas. They tabulated the labor and 
material needed to repair a mile of rail- 
road track or of oil or gasoline pipeline 
and to provide 1,000 square feet of 
general-purpose shop or depot space. 
There were some forty-one contingency 
plans for dealing with unpredictable 
Channel tides and weather, which could 
make repairs necessary under other 
than normal water levels. 

Realizing that ports would not be 
available for at least ninety days after 
the invasion, COSSAC allocated author- 
ity for beach operations among the 
Navy, the Army's Transportation Corps, 
and the Corps of Engineers, which car- 
ried the heaviest load. At this stage the 
main problem in planning beach sup- 
ply operations was selection. Beaches 
had to be wide and sheltered from high 
winds and heavy surf. Terrain and 
beach outlets were of prime importance 
in the early days of the invasion, and 
the engineers tried to locate supply 
beaches near ports that would serve as 
supply arteries once beach operations 
closed down. Plans also included opti- 
mum sites for beach air strip construc- 
tion, for inland movement and com- 
munication, for protection by Allied air 
power, and for limited enemy opposi- 
tion. 

Lines of Communications 

Influenced by the widespread rail 
and road demolition they had met in 
Italy, ETOUSA engineer planners at 
first estimated that destruction of traf- 



LOOKING AHEAD TO THE CONTINENT 



283 



fie nets on the Continent would reach 
75 percent. Since such an estimate called 
for staggering tonnages of railroad 
equipment, it was cut to 25 percent for 
main line tracks and to 35 to 50 per- 
cent for yards and sidings. U.S. Army 
engineer and British planners provided 
the following revised estimates of ex- 
pected damage: railroads in the port 
area, 75 percent; railroads up to thirty 
miles inland, 50 percent; those beyond 
that distance, 25 percent. Railway brid- 
ges in ports and up to thirty miles away 
would be damaged 100 percent; those 
beyond, 50 percent. In fact, the engi- 
neers overestimated the amount of new 
rail and wooden ties that would be 
needed in northern France. Though 
the destruction in major centers was 
severe, the trackage in open country- 
side escaped extensive damage, often 
more affected by Allied air attacks than 
enemy action, and cancellation orders 
stopped much of the continued move- 
ment of rails to Europe later in the year. 

Thousands of aerial photographs 
helped engineer planners estimate the 
amount of railroad bridging that would 
be required on the Continent. The 
engineers studied track maintenance, 
railroad grades, the number and length 
of sidetracks needed, the carrying capac- 
ity of various lines, bridge capacities, 
water and commercial facilities, and 
available materials. 10 

The engineers' chief concern in road 



10 Engr Planning Data for Operations in Northwest 
Europe, Railway Reconstruction, Mar 44, OCE; Rpt 
ofCommunications Sect. "Railroad and POL Projects — 
Channel Base," Estimates for Railroad Reconstruction, 
C&Q Div, OCE, Mar 44: Daily Jnl, ETOUSA G-4 
Opns, 3 Apr 44, Adm 475, ETOUSA Hist Sect; OCE 
ETOUSA Hist Rpt 12, Railroad Reconstruction and 
Bridging (United Kingdom), 1946, Liaison Sect, Intel 
Div. ETOUSA Adm file 547. 



planning lay with maintenance rather 
than new construction. They generally 
confined estimates to maintenance of 
one mile of various types of roads for 
one month. By studying typical roadnets 
in other theaters, planners could obtain 
an average road density per square mile 
of territory occupied, and by comput- 
ing the total area under occupation 
from the phase lines marked out for 
OVERLORD, they could calculate total 
road mileage during successive periods. 
The engineers doubted that the Ger- 
mans would systematically destroy road 
surfaces. In the Mediterranean the Ger- 
mans had limited deliberate destruction 
to roads in difficult terrain where repairs 
would constitute a major problem, and 
little such terrain existed in northern 
France. 1 1 

Tactical and highway bridging occu- 
pied much of the planners' attention. 
A tactical bridge policy developed in 
ETOUSA in April 1943 remained the 
basis for planning, though it changed 
with tactical planning. The engineers 
computed their requirements for high- 
way bridges by using aerial photographs, 
expecting to use standard 35-ton capac- 
ity steel treadway to bridge the thirty- 
to sixty-foot gaps anticipated on the 
Continent. In the theater, the engineers 
used Bailey bridging for everything 
from tactical floating spans to lines of 
communications bridges for army and 
division use. But ongoing theater plan- 
ning coincided with a search for new 
models of tactical bridging in the United 
States necessitated by new, wider replace- 
ments for the M— 4 Sherman tank and 
by Army Ground Forces demands on 



11 OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 14, Road Maintenance 
and Highway Bridging (United Kingdom), 1946, p. 
17, Liaison Sect, Intel Div, ETOUSA Adm file 547. 



284 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



the Engineer Board for a complete revi- 
sion in floating bridge equipage. Test- 
ing of new prototypes and of new Bai- 
ley bridging applications continued into 
early 1944. Thus, as late as January 
1944, many engineers in the United 
States were still considering the Bailey 
strictly as a line of communications 
bridge while engineers in the ETO, 
remembering the Italian campaign, 
favored its use in any tactical situation 
to which it could be adapted. 12 

Initial estimates on the consumption 
of gasoline in the ETO were indefinite; 
only late in the planning stage were 
engineer planners able to make fairly 
accurate calculations. Except for bulk 
storage installations, which were usu- 
ally in the vicinity of ports, existing POL 
facilities generally lay underground and 
were not well suited to military needs. 
Pipelines had to be laid along existing 
roads to minimize the problems of trans- 
porting and distributing construction 
materials. The terrain along selected 
routes was an important factor, for it 
had a direct bearing on the number 
and spacing of pumping stations. The 
tactical plan and the location of large 
supply depots generally would deter- 
mine both the location and capacity of 
bulk storage installations. Thus, with 
every major change in the tactical plan 
(or with any other material change in 
plans) a new pipeline distribution sys- 
tem had to be designed. 

Ship-to-shore pipelines also posed a 
difficult problem. Assurance was needed 
that pipeline distribution of liquid fuels 
could be undertaken before a port was 



12 Coll, Keith, and Rosenthal, Th e Corps of Engineers: 
Troops and Equipment ] pp. 490 — 97 J Dossier of Tactical 
Bridging, 18 Jan 44, Supply G-4 Directives; Rpt on 
Observations Made During Visit to the ETO, 16 
Jun-17 Sep 43. 



available. A method had to be devised 
to permit tankers anchored one-half to 
one mile off the beaches to discharge 
their contents directly into a shore- 
based distribution system. After experi- 
menting, American and British forces 
adopted a simple British solution. A 
small vessel with powerful winches such 
as a submarine-net tender could pull 
successive lengths of rigid pipe seaward 
from a beach. A flexible buoyed hose 
attached to the seaward end of the pipe 
would permit direct discharge of tank- 
ers into the system. 13 

The engineers could not estimate in 
advance requirements for the recon- 
struction of the inland waterways of 
northeast France and Belgium, which 
the Germans were using extensively, for 
there was no standardization in their 
dimensions or in their equipment. Many 
were the product of centuries of devel- 
opment of internal communications. 
Except for lock structures, reconstruc- 
tion would be largely an earthmoving 
job requiring the type of equipment 
organic to engineer construction units. 
The repair of locks and lockgates, the 
engineers believed, could be accom- 
plished by improvisation using local 
materials. 

The major problem the engineers 
faced with utilities systems on the Con- 
tinent was determining civilian needs — 
military requirements were to be met 
by self-contained utilities provided for 
all new camps and hospitals. Planners 
gathered population statistics and per 
capita figures on water consumption 
and electric power. They established 



"Railroad and POL Projects — Channel Base," in 
booklet, Estimates for Railroad Reconstruction, C&Q Div, 
OCE, Mar 44. 

w OCE ETOUSA Monthly Rpt 12, Mar 44, and 13, 
Apr 44. 



LOOKING AHEAD TO THE CONTINENT 



285 



minimum standards for civilian use and 
studied existing utilities systems and 
anticipated damage. 

In the end the engineers regarded 
the PROCO system as problematic, 
either as a means for estimating neces- 
sary theater stocks accurately or as a 
supply system. Though PROCO stud- 
ies were an obvious method of drawing 
up broad estimates and planning re- 
quirements for construction on the 
Continent, there was no possibility of 
pinpointing engineer requirements 
under PROCO or any other system. 
While their objectives were still in enemy 
hands the engineers could only guess 
at the type and amount of materials 
they would need. They also had a prob- 
lem in estimating the requirements of 
major field commands that had not yet 
arrived in England. First Army head- 
quarters came only in October 1943, 
and the engineer planners had to calcu- 
late the field army's necessities anew. 
Nor did PROCO reduce the time it took 
for material to move through the sup- 
ply pipeline to the theater. In the opin- 
ion of the theater engineer, the pro- 
jects "proved to be a poor device for 
obtaining supply action." 15 

Responsibility for Civilian Labor 

By early 1944 theater planners had 
tentative outlines for tapping the wealth 
of civilian labor on the Continent. 
SHAEF established a Combined Mili- 
tary Procurement Control as an execu- 



15 Ltr, Col J. S. Seybold, Chf, Supply Div, OCE 
ETOUSA, to Overseas Supply Div, NYPOE, 5 Jul 44, 
sub: Req PROCO Projects, file 381 PROCO; Memo, 
J.R.H. [Col John R. Hardin] for Chf, Opns, OCE, 20 
Sep 43, sub: Questions of Policy Affecting Engr 
Planning, Key Bolero Plans folder; ^Moore, Final 
Report, p. 49. 



tive agent for General Eisenhower in 
matters of local supply procurement 
and civilian hiring for both British and 
American forces. Overall American 
theater-level planning for employing 
civilians abroad was the job of the the- 
ater general purchasing agent, who 
delegated his authority among various 
levels of the projected Communications 
Zone command that General Lee would 
head on the Continent. On 19 April 
1944, Lee formally gave responsibility 
for managing the procurement of civil- 
ian labor in the field to the engineers 
since they would be the first to need 
workers for beach dumps, ports, stor- 
age areas, and roadnets. Maj. Gen. Cecil 
R. Moore's staff had no plans for this 
eventuality, few qualified officers or 
enlisted men to run a personnel clearing- 
house, and no understanding of the 
problems of pay levels, housing, and 
welfare of civilian workers. Despite 
repeated effort to get engineer officers 
who could handle the job, the civilian 
labor responsibility fell to the theater 
engineer's administrative division. Ac- 
tually, the engineer-spawned Civilian 
Labor Procurement Service had as- 
signed members of other technical ser- 
vices who could screen prospective em- 
ployees for specialized work. The gen- 
eral purchasing agent, privy to the 
highest counsels of the Allied command 
on the subject of civilian workers in the 
Combined Military Procurement Con- 
trol, coordinated activities from the the- 
ater command level. SHAEF retained 
the final say in matters of pay and set 
wage tables keyed to prewar salary lev- 
els in given geographic areas. 16 



lfi Henry G. Elliott, The Administrative and Logistical 
History of the European Theater of Operations, vol. 
X, "Local Procurement of Labor and Supplies, United 
Kingdom and Continental," pp. 74—80, in CMH. 



286 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



The engineers set broad classifica- 
tions to delineate conditions of employ- 
ment and skill levels for workers. Two 
general categories aligned prospective 
employees by their willingness to work 
in mobile or static detachments. Static 
laborers usually worked in a single 
location, lived nearby, and were respon- 
sible for their own quarters and food. 
Mobile workers, who received their sus- 
tenance and housing from the Allied 
command employing them, usually per- 
formed as part of a transient labor com- 
pany organized on military lines. Both 
static and mobile workers served under 
contract and were considered unskilled 
until they proved otherwise. Their wages 
would then change accordingly. 

The foundation for regional and 
local management of labor offices also 
came into being before the invasion. 
Each base section was to have a pro- 
curement office, and in each French 
region there would be a representative 
in a centrally located major city. The 
first organization was scheduled for the 
immediate invasion area, and plans 
called for offices in Ste. Mere-Eglise, 
Longueville, Carentan, Bricquebec, 
Cherbourg, Isigny, and UTAH Beach. 17 

Refinements in Overlord's Operation 

Tactical command for the invasion 
consisted of a three-phased allotment 
of responsibilities to the higher head- 
quarters arriving in Normandy to con- 
trol the incoming combat and support 
units. In the assault phase, the U.S. First 
Army and the British Second Army 
operated separately to consolidate the 
beaches under the remote command of 
the British 21 Army Group. Phase II 



17 Ibid., p. 87. 



would begin when 21 Army Group 
came ashore and assumed tactical con- 
trol of both field armies. Until the sec- 
ond stage was concluded First Army 
and all the incoming service troops 
attached to it were under 21 Army 
Group control. The last invasion phase 
foresaw the introduction of another 
American field army, the Third, and 
of the American 1st Army Group head- 
quarters. General Sir Bernard L. Mont- 
gomery, commanding the 21 Army 
Group, was responsible for SHAEF 
tactical planning, but he relied heavily 
on American contributions to the NEP- 
TUNE plan which referred to actual 
operations under the OVERLORD inva- 
sion plan. Though the 1st Army Group 
headquarters was involved in this pro- 
cess, Montgomery also delegated the 
planning for the actual assaults to the 
First Army staff. 18 

Detailed planning for supply and for 
rehabilitation of Continental ports and 
rail and roadnets fell to two new organi- 
zational echelons established to smooth 
the transfer of supply and administra- 
tive functions across the English Chan- 
nel. Fifth Army in Italy had briefly but 
successfully experimented with an ad- 
vance supply section at Naples to elimi- 
nate the long and uncontrollable sup- 
ply lines that had become necessary in 
North Africa. In December 1943 
COSSAC established a similar section 
to relieve First Army of supply respon- 
sibilities immediately behind its area of 
operations in the first days of the in- 
vasion. Formally in existence after 7 
February 1944, Headquarters, Advance 
Section, or ADSEC, was under the com- 



18 First U.S. Army, Report of Operations, 20 October 
1943-1 August 1944, p. 25; 12th Army Group, Report 
of Operations, vol. XII, p. 51. 



LOOKING AHEAD TO THE CONTINENT 



287 



mand of Col. Ewart G. Plank, an engi- 
neer officer who had commanded East- 
ern Base Section. The ADSEC engineer 
was Col. Emerson C. Itschner. The sec- 
tion was to remain attached to First 
Army in the American chain of com- 
mand and be responsible for supply 
installations behind it until the arrival 
on the Continent of a second, higher 
command, Forward Echelon, Commu- 
nications Zone. Forward Echelon, also 
in existence under ETOUSA since 7 
February, was formally established by 
SHAEF directive two days later. De- 
signed as an extension of General Lee's 
SOS organization and equipped to run 
the communications zone in France 
until the entire SOS moved across the 
Channel, the command, known as 
FECOMZ, would become ADSEC's par- 
ent as soon as General Bradley drew a 
rear boundary for First Army. Planning 
proceeded under Col. Frank M. Al- 
brecht, General Moore's former plans 
officer, as chief of staff. On 14 March 
1944, Brig. Gen. Harry B. Vaughan, 
former commander of Western Base 
Section, took over FECOMZ. 19 

First Army was to estimate the ton- 
nage and supply needs from D-day to 
D plus 15 (Phase I) for all U.S. forces, 
including air and naval forces in the 
assault, and have ETOUSA fill the 
requisitions. In Phase II, D plus 16 to 
D plus 40, 1st U.S. Army Group was to 
compile the required tonnage figures 
but would have ETOUSA fill the re- 
quirements through ADSEC. FECOMZ 
was to arrange for the buildup to COMZ 
and to introduce base sections at the 



10 Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies, Vol- 
ume I, pp. 204-13; ETO Gen Bd Rpt 127, Organiza- 
tion and Functions of the Communications Zone, ch. 
4, pp. 32-38. 



same time that 1st Army Group was 
strengthening the combat zone with 
additional armies. Between D plus 41 
and D plus 90 (Phase III), 1st Army 
Group would continue to assemble the 
overall tonnage requirements, but they 
would be implemented through 
FECOMZ, which would assume active 
control when a second base section 
arrived on the Continent and ADSEC 
moved forward with the armies. Not 
until D plus 90 was COMZ to reach the 
Continent and take over from FECOMZ. 

Whereas First Army issued its plans 
in February 1944, the FECOMZ plan 
was not complete until 30 April 1944. 
The detail involved in some aspects of 
the planning was enormous, and the 
ADSEC engineer plan literally out- 
weighed that of all the other technical 
services combined. Two thick volumes 
of data on the Normandy ports included 
an analysis of each port's facilities, a 
schedule of reconstruction, and a cata- 
logue of equipment and materials re- 
quired. 

Planning for post-OVERLORD opera- 
tions (D plus 90 to D plus 120) forced 
Moore, along with other technical ser- 
vice chiefs, to furnish an estimate— by 
month and class — of the tonnages he 
would need for the entire period from 
D plus 90 to D plus 360. Planning for 
this period continued under the PROCO 
system according to ETOUSA SOS 
Series H directives. Two directives be- 
fore D-day established progressive phase 
lines and troop counts to D plus 360 
and required engineer statements on 
which material was to be stored in the 
United Kingdom and which would go 
directly to the Continent. 

A British officer, Maj. Gen. H. B. W. 
Hughes, headed the SHAEF engineer 
division, but he had an American dep- 



288 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



uty, Brig. Gen. Beverly C. Dunn, and 
the four branches under Hughes were 
also headed by Americans. The divi- 
sion's chief task was to coordinate the 
work of the army group engineers and 
to provide terrain and engineer intelli- 
gence studies; recommendations on 
new techniques, equipment, and tactics; 
and engineer estimates of the situation. 
Perhaps the most important feature of 
this high-level assistance was anticipat- 
ing what engineer supplies the army 
groups would need and helping to 
obtain them from Allied supply or- 
ganizations. 

joint Stockpiling With the British 

Because OVERLORD was an Allied 
undertaking, a system of combined sup- 
ply or joint stockage was desirable to 
prevent overprocurement of inter- 
changeable items; to ensure sufficient 
supply where procurement was diffi- 
cult and it was unclear which force 
would employ the item; and to provide 
items that would, in fact, serve British 
and American forces simultaneously. 
Joint stockpile items included Bailey 
bridges and railroad and port construc- 
tion equipment. Some parts of such 
items were manufactured in the United 
Kingdom, others in the United States. 
The British were responsible for pro- 
curement of some items, turning over 
to American forces their share; others 
the Americans procured and divided 
with the British. 1 



20 Rpts, Feb^Jun 44 in file Weekly Rpts, CE, SHAEF, 
Dec 43 -Dec 45. 

21 History of the Office of the General Purchasing 
Agent, May 42-Oct 45, pp. 57-59, Adm 556, 
ETOUSA Hist Sect; Ltr, Oxx to the Engr, ETOUSA, 
10 Dec 43, sub: Procedure for Supply and Allocation 
of Joint U.S. -British Requirements for Operation in 



Planning for the joint stockpiling of 
railroad items began in the summer of 
1942 when the Transportation, Plant, 
and Personnel (TPP) Section of SOS, 
ETOUSA, was formed with both U.S. 
and British members under a central 
planning staff. This group included a 
representative from the Corps of En- 
gineers. At the time railway planning 
started no standard U.S. military rail- 
road bridge had been developed, and 
it became necessary to adopt those the 
British had. Since the British were un- 
able to produce enough bridges for 
both armies, the TPP Section arranged 
for production of the same types in the 
United States and ensured that they 
were interchangable with those manu- 
factured in Britain. Later agreements 
provided that stockpiles would be di- 
vided equally between American and 
British forces and that any reallocation 
would be the responsibility of an Allied 
headquarters. 22 

During the summer of 1943 the Brit- 
ish repeatedly tried to broaden the base 
for joint stock items, which had been 
limited to items for joint use or for pro- 
vision of a joint service. U.S. engineers 
objected strenuously to these efforts 
and, after long discussion, won their 
point. The British had argued that most 
engineer requirements should be calcu- 
lated jointly and the supplies handled 
in joint stockpile. Some British agen- 
cies even proposed that they handle 
procurement of all such items, whether 
they came from the United States or 
the United Kingdom. These proposals 
were hardly advantageous to the U.S. 



Western Europe, 381, Planning Northwest Europe 
1944-45, EUCOM Engr files. 

22 OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 12, Railroad Reconstruc- 
tion and Bridging. 



LOOKING AHEAD TO THE CONTINENT 



289 



Army, for if pooling American and 
British resources meant absorbing Am- 
erican personnel into British operations, 
American engineers would be deprived 
of much-needed experience in doing 
their job independently according to 
their own procedures. 2 

With the establishment of COSSAC, 
joint policies and procedures were de- 
fined. A COSSAC circular issued on 25 
June 1943 required written provisions 
for joint stockpiles and COSSAC ap- 
proval for talks between American and 
British counterparts. SOS, ETOUSA, 
further clarified the issues in August, 
September, and November 1943. Allied 
commands could jointly stockpile items 
only if definite economies would result 
during the period when forces on the 
Continent would be supplied princi- 
pally from the United Kingdom. Later, 
American policy required that, except 
for agreements already made, joint 
stockpiling with the British would be 
discontinued; no further agreements 
were to be made after 21 November 
1943. This decision came almost simulta- 
neously with a PROCO pronouncement 
calling for firm plans for PROCO sup- 
plies for the first 240 days after the 
invasion. Since the PROCO items were 
in addition to the U.S. share of joint 
requirements, the Americans had to 
order them independently. 24 

Training 

Most engineer units arriving in the 



23 Llr, CE, ETO, to CofEngrs, Washington, D.C., 2 
Jul 43, sub: Engr Supply in ETO, 400, General 
Supplies, EUCOM Engr files. 

k History of the Office of CPA, p. 57; OCE ETOUSA 
Hist Rpt 12, Railroad Reconstruction and Bridging, 
p. 8; Memo, OCE for Chf, Opns, 17 Sep 43, 400, Col 
Hardin — Supplies and Equipment Procurement of 
1943-44, EUCOM Engr files. 



theater in 1943 and early 1944 needed 
considerable training. Camouflage units 
arriving in the United Kingdom were 
unfamiliar with the most important 
equipment they were to use on the 
Continent. General service regiments 
needed to learn about mines and booby 
traps and the uses of Bailey bridges. 
Engineer combat battalions lacked train- 
ing in recording minefields and repair- 
ing roads. Drivers and mechanics of 
dump truck companies had trained 
with non-TOE vehicles. Port construc- 
tion and repair units had trained in the 
United States with different types of 
equipment than those they received in 
the United Kingdom. The one notable 
exception was the topographic organi- 
zations, which arrived well trained for 
their work on the Continent. 25 

Training SOS engineers in the United 
Kingdom was the responsibility of 
Troops Division, OCE, ETOUSA, which 
had a London branch planning for 
future operations and a Cheltenham 
branch providing training aids to SOS 
troops and supervising SOS engineer 
schools. The base section supervised 
training. Theoretically one hour a day 
or one day a week was given over to 
training for future operations, but con- 
struction priorities often made it impos- 
sible to follow any training schedule. 
Troops might be working on day and 
night shifts, or bad weather would inter- 
vene and training would have to be 
canceled. In any case, the alloted one 
hour a day was of little use, for it often 
took that long to reach a training area. 



25 1st Ind to Ltr, Brig Gen L. D. Wersham, 26 May 
44, Construction Div files, OCE; Moore interv; AGF 
Bd Rpt 599, Training, I Feb 45. For training prob-, 
lems in the United States, see Coll, Keith, and Rosenthal, 
The Corp s of Engineers: Troops and Equipment, pp. 
|24l-59] 



290 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 




Limiting the training time to an hour 
also meant that a subject had to treated 
completely in that time, for it often 
proved impossible to continue a sub- 
ject during the next training period. 
When longer lapses occurred between 
sessions, men forgot subje ct matter a nd 



continuity was destroyed. (Map 14) 



In March 1944 when extensive train- 
ing opportunities became possible, 
Troops Division, OCE, ETOUSA, sug- 



26 Albrecht interv, Adm 122, ETOUSA Hist Sect; 
HQ, USFET Engr Sect, 353 Training Gen (Current) 
1944; History of Western Base Section, Jul 43; Hist 
833d Engr Avn Bn, 10 Jul 42-25 Sep 45, Maxwell 
AFB; Incl to Ltr, Engr School to CoFEngrs, 28 Dec 
43, sub: Opn of GS Rgts, OCE; OCE ETOUSA Hist 
Rpt 6, Air Force Construction. 



gested one to two months for many 
units. Full-time training was frequently 
more arduous than construction work. 
Often the day's schedule was extended 
from 10 hours to 12—15 hours so that 
the troops could practice techniques 
used in night operations. Considerable 
time also had to be devoted to basic 
subjects that had been forgotten or only 
infrequently put to use. 2 

Virtually every type of military sub- 
ject was available. The American sec- 
tion of the British School of Military 
Engineering included courses in mines, 
booby traps, demolitions, Bailey 



Hists, 341st, 346th, 355th, and 95th Engr GS Rgts. 



LOOKING AHEAD TO THE CONTINENT 



291 




Wire Entanglements and Dragon's Teeth at the Assault Training Center, 

Woolacombe. 



bridging, camouflage, waterproofing, 
and airfield engineering and reconnais- 
sance. A port construction and repair 
training center in Wales specialized in 
construction of V-type trestles, Baileys, 
wooden trestle bridges, Sommerfeld 
mats, and tubular scaffolding. On the 
Isle of Wight the engineers conducted 
marine pipeline training. A five- to 
seven-week course at the Transporta- 
tion Training Center trained general 
service regiments for railroad work, 
especially railroad bridging. 28 



28 USFET Engr files, 353 Training (General), 1 943; 
Specialist Course Theater Engr Trng Ctr, Ofc of The- 
ater Chf Engr, ETOUSA, Aug 46; OCE ETOUSA 
Monthly Rpt, Apr— May 44. 



ETOUSA conducted courses in mess 
management, fire fighting, cooking, 
motor transport, enemy personnel and 
equipment identification, basic radio 
operation, gas warfare, and water- 
proofing. At the engineer section of the 
American School Center, run by G— 3, 
ETOUSA, the primary objective was 
developing physical stamina and endur- 
ance necessary for combat while pro- 
viding three months of basic technical 
and tactical training. Officers and en- 
listed men attended a two-week course 
in logistical planning at the British Air 
Ministry's Joint British and American 
School. Engineers could attend schools 
offering instruction in quartermaster 
transport, bomb reconnaissance, field 



SCOTLAND 



MAJOR TRAINING SITES 
IN THE UNITED KINGDOM 



h 



50 



100 Miles 

i 



50 



100 Kilometers 




e of Man 



IRISH SEA 



School of Military 
Engineering 



NORTH SEA 



Engineer Training 
Center 




Sudbury 



^King's Newton 



Waterproofing British Railway 
School Bridging School 

ENGLAND 



Cheltenham 

Wa/fmgford m 
Engineer School 



f/fracombe 
Assault Training 
Center 



Slapton Sands 




LONDON 



< ^J > fsle of Wight 

Marine Pipeline 
Training Center 



X 



MAP 14 



LOOKING AHEAD TO THE CONTINENT 



293 



artillery (for antiaircraft fire), landing 
craft loading, bituminous paving and 
road construction, troop leadership, 
enemy document evaluation, and order 
of battle. 29 

Engineers took a leading part in the 
well-known Assault Training Center. 
Col. Paul W. Thompson, an engineer 
officer, commanded the school from 2 
April 1943 until early March 1944. 
Thompson and his staff spent April and 
May 1943 studying the French coastline. 
They calculated that at no place along 
the coast of northwest France could the 
Germans use more than one platoon 
per 2,000—2,500 yards to protect beach 
fortifications. They deduced that Ger- 
mans would have extremely strong field 
defenses with concrete pillboxes, em- 
placements, and shelters, and thinly 
spread defenders providing consider- 
able automatic fire. The Assault Train- 
ing Center prepared units to deal with 
such a defensive strategy. Set up on the 
northwest coast of Devonshire at Ilfra- 
combe, the center was completed in 
March 1944, allowing over two months 
before the invasion for unit training 
and a series of full-scale exercises. Engi- 
neer units constructed and placed beach 
and underwater obstacles (modeled 
after those on the beaches of northern 
France) and gave lectures on a number 
of subjects connected with an assault 
landing. 30 



89 Hist Trng Div, OCE ETOUSA, 1 Apr 43- 1 Apr 
45; Ltr; Maj H. E. Webster to Chf, Troop Div, OCE, 
SOS ETOUSA, 7 Apr 43, sub: Rpt on Visit to Ameri- 
can School Center, 319.1, EUCOM Engr files; Hist 
51st Engr Bn. 

30 Specialist Course Theater Engr Trng Ctr, OCE 
ETOUSA, Aug 46; First U.S. Army, Report of Opera- 
tions, 20 Oct 43-1 Aug 44, vol. I, p. 19; 1st. Lt. G. W. 
Favalion, 1st. Lt. Alex M. Marsh, and Maj. E. R. Kline, 
eds., Potholes andBullels (Highland Park, Illinois: Singer 
Printing and Pub. Co, 1946), a pictorial account of the 



The British contributed in many ways 
to training, opening their schools to 
American engineers and offering ideas 
and equipment. British and American 
units exchanged parties, usually com- 
posed of one officer and ten enlisted 
men, for fifteen days. Each group learn- 
ed the characteristics, methods, weap- 
ons, tools, nomenclature, problems, and 
tactics of the other. The practice also 
increased understanding and comrade- 
ship between Allies. 31 

First Army's training emphasized 
bridge building, road maintenance and 
construction, mine placement, and 
enemy mine detection and removal. 
First Army also recommended that all 
company grade engineer officers re- 
ceive instruction in adjusting artillery 
fire by using forward observation meth- 
ods. Engineer units used schools, lec- 
tures, and demonstrations to train their 
own men and sent enlisted men and 
officers to schools in higher British or 
American echelons. 

American corps and divisions trained 
units for special missions in the assault. 
Engineers practiced the rapid construc- 
tion of plywood treadway bridges 
mounted on pneumatic floats for cross- 
ing flooded areas and absorbed what- 
ever they could on terrain problems to 
be expected on the Continent. 33 

Maps for the Invasion 
U.S. and British military forces could 



5th Engineer Combat Battalion in World War II. Hists, 
112th and 204th Engr C Bns. 

31 USFET Engr files, 353 Training (General) 1943; 
First U.S. Army, Report of Operations, 20 Oct 43-1 Aug 
44, vol. I, p. 22. 

32 First U.S. Army, Report of Operations, 20 Oct 43-1 
Aug 44, vol. I, p. 1 8, and vol. V, p. 209. 

™ Ibid.; HQ, ETOUSA, WD Observer Bd, 22 Apr 
44, sub: Quarterly Rpt Engr Section, 451.3, OCE. 



294 CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 




ENGINEER MAPMAKER USES A MULTIPLEX to establish accurate contours on invasion maps. 



be proud of the maps they prepared 
jointly for operations on the Continent. 
In 1939 the British had had to start 
almost literally from scratch. Only for 
eastern France were World War I maps 
available on a scale as large as 1:25,000; 
few of them had been revised to show 
roads, bridges, or railroads built since 
that time or changes in fields and woods. 
For western France the only military 
maps were based on those Napoleon 
had used. They had been edited and 
enlarged to a scale of 1:50,000 but had 
not been made more accurate. Few 
maps had had any terrain corrections 
since 1900. 

Shortly after the evacuation of Dun- 
kirk in 1940 the British Army inaugu- 
rated the Benson project, named for an 



airfield in Oxfordshire. From this air- 
field Royal Air Force (RAF) planes took 
off to map the French coast from Cher- 
bourg to Calais and an area extending 
inland approximately sixty miles; the 
British succeeded in producing 1:25,000 
scale maps. 34 Early in 1942, in accor- 
dance with the terms of the Loper- 
Hotine Agreement, the British assumed 
general mapping responsibility for most 
of western Europe. Americans helped 
in taking aerial photographs for map- 
making and reproducing maps for use 
by U.S. forces. 



34 OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 5, Intelligence and Top- 
ography, pp, 6 -7. 
95 Set ch. III. 



LOOKING AHEAD TO THE CONTINENT 



295 



Genera] mapping (as distinguished 
from "intelligence" mapping of individ- 
ual spots) began with aerial photo- 
graphs showing roads, streams, rail- 
roads, bridges, buildings, Fields, woods, 
and flood areas. Using the aerial photo- 
graph, mapmakers drew with instru- 
ments a topographic contour, or "topo 
map," divided into small military grid 
squares that enabled the user to locate 
areas exactly. When manpower or time 
did not permit making topo maps, the 
original photograph could be made to 
serve as a map by the application of 
grid lines, contours, place names, and 
indications of scale and direction. The 
poor quality of many photomaps preju- 
diced the users against them, but the 
chief engineer saw their value in allevi- 
ating the burden on mapmakers and 
aerial photographers and planned to use 
photomaps in the preinvasion period. 36 

Topo maps of 1:25,000 scale were 
produced from aerial photographs taken 
with a six-inch metrogen lens with 
high-speed multiplex equipment which 
registered both horizontal and vertical 
dimensions of terrain features. Produc- 
tion of these maps was the primary mis- 
sion of the base topographic battalion, 
the most important element in the ETO 
topographic service. Each base topo- 
graphic battalion contained a photo- 
mapping company that had a complete 
set of multiplex equipment including 
approximately one hundred projectors, 
enough to put Fifty operators to work 
after the aerial triangulation and con- 
trol extensions were Finished. A photo- 
mapping company, working with good 
quality aerial photography, could map 



approximately one hundred square 
miles a day. 37 

Until the summer of 1943 the great- 
est hindrance to mapmaking in the 
European theater was the difficulty 
of obtaining good aerial photographs 
to work with — a responsibility of the 
Army Air Forces. After four special 
B— 17E photographic aircraft sent to 
the ETO in the fall of 1942 were di- 
verted to North Africa, the British gave 
an RAF reconnaissance squadron the 
job of filling U.S. photographic map- 
ping needs. By May 1943 this squad- 
ron had photographed some 22,000 
square miles of the First-priority area. 
But because the RAF used a type of 
camera not suited to American equip- 
ment, fewer than 10,000 square miles 
of large-scale topo maps had been pro- 
duced. The U.S. Army Air Forces had 
not helped, mainly because the AAF's 
Director of Photography, Lt. Col. Min- 
ton W. Kaye, then in the ETO, felt that 
the hazards and costs of securing wide- 
angle vertical photography over heav- 
ily defended areas were too great. He 
advocated a system of aerial photogra- 
phy known as trimetrogen photography. 
Developed for small-scale aeronautical 
charts, the system used wide-angle cam- 
eras that tilted in divergent directions 
to produce one vertical and two high 
oblique photographs which made a 
composite picture of an area from hori- 
zon to horizon. The engineers objected 
to trimetrogen pictures because oblique 
photography multiplied the difFiculties 
of making enlargements and produced 



17 OCE ETOUS A Hist Rpt 5, Intelligence and Top- 

— ~ ography, p. 83; Speech (no signature), 27 Jan 45, sub: 

36 Engrs file 121, General, Adm 212, ETOUSA Hist Aerial Photographic Mapping, H-4 061 General, 
Sect. EUCOM Engr files. 



296 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



distortions that no known instrument 
could correct. 38 

In June 1943, General Moore, Col. 
Herbert Milwit, head of Moore's intelli- 
gence division, and Maj. Gen. Ira C. 
Eaker, commanding officer of the 
Eighth Air Force, discussed the prob- 
lem. General Eaker said he would help 
the engineers get more accurate photos. 
Beginning on 22 June 1943, the 13th 
Photo Squadron, using K17 cameras in 
F— 4 and F— 5 aircraft — reconnaissance 
versions of the P— 38 Lightning — took 
wide-angle photographs covering more 
than 10,000 square miles without any 
loss from enemy action. The success of 
this project promoted greater Air 
Force— engineer cooperation, and there 
was no serious shortage of aerial pho- 
tography during the invasion and for 
several months thereafter. 

U.S. support of the Benson project 
began early in 1944. Using aerial pho- 
tography sent from England, the U.S. 
Geological Survey and the Tennessee 
Valley Authority, on assignment from 
OCE, prepared 200 sheets at the 
1:25,000 scale covering 16,000 square 
miles of northern France. To enable 
the mapmakers to meet deadlines for 
the Normandy landings, the OCE Intel- 
ligence Division permitted the omission 
of much fine detail such as hedgerows 
but backed up each battle map with a 
photomap of the same area. 39 

In assuming responsibility for pro- 
viding engineer intelligence as well as 
topographic service, General Moore was 



■ w Maps and Mapping, May 42-Apr 45, L-o 060, 
EUCOM Engr files. Coll, Keith, and R osenthal, The 
Corps of Engineers: Troops and Equipment, |pp. 44b— 54. | 

3J Coll, Keith, and R osenthal, The C orps of Engineers: 
Troops and Equipment, I pp. 457-58-1 OCE ETOUSA 
Hist Rpt 5, Intelligence and Topography, pp. 28-30, 
49. 



treading on new ground. No back- 
ground of intelligence experience ex- 
isted in the Corps of Engineers equiva- 
lent to that acquired in construction 
engineering on rivers and harbors duty. 
Few officers were competent to handle 
the expanded duties in engineer intelli- 
gence and topography, nor was any 
precedent available upon which to base 
an effective organization or plan. By 
agreement with a succession of theater 
G— 2s, General Moore gave the Intelli- 
gence Division, OCE, ETOUSA, respon- 
sibility for all problems pertaining to 
the topographical service, including 
map policy, theater map library opera- 
tion, and planning for map production, 
reproduction, supply, and distribution. 

In planning map production the In- 
telligence Division had to consider what 
map series should be completed, which 
maps the forces involved would need, 
how much time was available, and which 
cartographic and reproduction facilities 
could be used in the field. Planners 
soon realized that the required maps 
could not be produced with the avail- 
able facilities in the time remaining. 
They decided to put first priority on 
1:25,000 maps and photomaps of France 
north of the Loire and west of the lon- 
gitude of Paris, with all new maps of 
the same design; second priority on 
1:50,000 maps of the coastal regions in 
the invasion area; third priority on 
1:100,000 series covering the entire 
operational area; and fourth priority 
on a 1:200,000 road map. A more satis- 
factory 1:250,000 map suitable for both 
ground and air use was also required; 
the 1 : 1 ,000,000 series needed consider- 
able revision; and many town plans — 
several thousand sheets — had to be 
produced. 

The expectation that the British War 



LOOKING AHEAD TO THE CONTINENT 



297 



Office's Directorate of Military Survey 
could provide most of the maps that 
U.S. forces in Europe would need soon 
had to be abandoned. Computations in 
1943 indicated that the four U.S. armies 
planned for European operations would 
need 7 million maps a month, more 
than base and field topographic units 
and local civilian facilities could provide. 
To produce that many maps, 35 mil- 
lion impressions would have to be made, 
one for each of the five colors needed 
for the average map. As- this was beyond 
British capability, in mid-December 
1943 Col. Herbert B. Loper of OCE, 
WD, arranged for the United States to 
assume a large share of supplying Amer- 
ican forces. For security reasons Brit- 
ish and American facilities located in 
England would provide maps needed 
from D-day to D plus 90. After D plus 
90 all maps for U.S. forces would be 
produced in the United States except 
those required for special, unanticipated, 
or highly classified projects. Army Map 
Service (AMS) received the first monthly 
requisition in April 1944 and was ready 
with the first shipment in July. Even- 
tually, out of every ten maps used in 
the theater Army Map Service and pri- 
vate contractors in the United States 
printed four; the British, the overseas 
topographic units, and the French Na- 
tional Geographic Institute, six. 40 

November 1943 plans for map ser- 
vice in support of the tactical forces pro- 
vided one topographic battalion for 
each army group and each army and 
one company for each corps and air 
force. Realizing the need to strengthen 
staff control of these units, General 
Moore recommended adding topo- 



graphic sections to the engineer head- 
quarters of army groups and armies. 
His proposal could not be put into 
effect because of the time it took to 
obtain theater approval; therefore, he 
provided each of the four armies 
planned for European operations with 
an engineer survey liaison detachment 
of five officers and ten enlisted men to 
handle the topographic service. This 
improvisation worked well and in his 
opinion "probably meant the difference 
between outstanding success . . . and a 
rather dismal failure." He later came 
to feel that a topographic officer should 
also be added to the corps engineer 
staff. 41 

The topographic battalions and com- 
panies were well organized and well 
equipped, except for map distribution, 
a problem that the War Department 
and ETOUSA had neglected. Experi- 
ence showed that maps could not be 
handled in the same way as other Class 
IV items, for they were too closely 
related to tactical operations. Distribu- 
tion had to respond immediately to 
changes in tactical plans, and a constant 
flow had to be maintained. Maps were 
so bulky that stocks to cover any contin- 
gency for a ten-day period would weigh 
at least sixty pounds — too much for an 
officer to carry on his person. Moreover, 
the transportation of stocks between 
depots and from depots to troops was 
to cause more trouble than any other 
aspect of map distribution on the Con- 
tinent. 42 

Security of maps was all important in 
the Overlord planning stage. The 
maps were sealed in coded bundles 
from which individual maps could be 



40 Coll, Keith, and Rosenthal, The Corps of Engineers: 
Troops and Equipment, p. 458. 



41 Moore, Final Report, pp. 107-08. 

42 AGF Bd Rpt 552, Map Distribution, 7 Jan 45. 



298 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



drawn without revealing much about 
the general plan for any given area. 
On 1 September 1943, the British Direc- 
torate of Military Survey and General 
Moore's Intelligence Division agreed to 
establish four special simnel depots, 
named for the code system applied to 
the map bundles. The depots, located 
at Aldershot, Oxford, Reading, and 
Towchester, had identical stocks, the 
code keys for the maps being kept by a 
minimum number of officers. In late 
1943, only the Oxford simnel depot had 
American personnel, but as the Ameri- 
can invasion forces outnumbered the 
British in May 1944 the U.S. Army took 
over a second facility at Lockerley. 

The United States also had a depot 
at Witney, set up in March 1944 with 
bulk stocks for the Continent; one at 
Reading, opened in January 1944 with 
reserves for the Air Force; another at 
Cheltenham, organized in September 
1942 to store maps for use in the United 
Kingdom; and a fourth at Swindon, 
established in January 1943 with bulk 
stocks of United Kingdom and Air 
Force maps. From Cheltenham and 
Oxford the maps went to the marshal- 
ing area mapping depots, then to camp 



commanders who undertook detailed 
distribution. Maps for troops in the 
marshaling areas were under guard at 
all times before they were issued to indi- 
vidual troop units and during move- 
ment from depots to camps had a guard 
detail of an officer and several armed 
enlisted men. When any coded rolls 
(packages of twenty and fifty maps) 
were opened in a depot, all persons 
handling the maps were locked into the 
storage buildings under strict security 
control. 43 

In mid- 1943 as forces massed in the 
United Kingdom to prepare for the 
invasion of France, attention also turned 
to specific landing places for the assault 
force. The engineering problems asso- 
ciated with getting the troops across the 
mined and defended beaches were in 
themselves immense; organized and 
rapid supply movement across the same 
terrain was essential to the success of 
the operation. It was clear that engi- 
neers would be in plentiful evidence 
on the D-day beaches. 



43 OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 5, Intelligence and Top- 
ography, pp. 41, 49, 60, 65, and app. 26, 



CHAPTER XIV 



Preparing for D-day Landings 



By early spring 1944 tactical plan- 
ning for the most ambitious amphibi- 
ous operation ever attempted was well 
under way. OVERLORD represented the 
fruits of two years of strategic thought, 
argument, experiment, and improvisa- 
tion and included compromises reflect- 
ing American and British aims. The 
beaches at Normandy offered the best 
combination of advantages as a foot- 
hold from which the Allies could direct 
a blow at the Third Reich from the 
West. 

After 1 February 1944, the general 
concept of an invasion of the Conti- 
nent in 1944 went by the name OVER- 
LORD. (The increasingly detailed Ameri- 
can field army planning — proceeding 
under tight security at First U.S. Army 
headquarters — was code named NEP- 
TUNE.) In its final form OVERLORD 
called for landing two field armies 
abreast in the Bay of the Seine west of 
the Orne River, a water barrier that 
was a suitable anchor for the left flank 
of the operation. While the British Sec- 
ond Army occupied the easternmost of 
the chosen landing areas on the left and 
took the key town of Caen, two corps 
of the American First Army under Lt. 
Gen. Omar N. Bradley were simulta- 
neously to assault two beaches west of 
the town of Port-en-Bessin. Once ashore 
the American forces were to swing west 
and north to clear the Cotentin penin- 



sula by D plus 15, gaining the prize of 
Cherbourg with its harbor for invasion 
supply. 1 

The American Beaches 

Invasion planners studied carefully 
the size, location, gradients, and ter- 
rain features of the American OMAHA 
and UTAH beaches. Within easy reach 
of the tactical fighter airfields in Eng- 
land, they lay separated from each 
other by the mouths of the Vire and 
the Douve rivers. The current in the 
river delta area where the two streams 
emptied into the sea deposited silt to 
form reefs offshore, making landings 
in the immediate neighborhood infeasi- 
ble. Protected from westerly Channel 
swells by the Cotentin peninsula, the 
waters off OMAHA and UTAH normally 
had waves up to three feet in the late 
spring. The six-fathom line ran close 
enough to shore to allow deep-draft 
attack transports to unload reasonably 
near the beaches and naval vessels to 
bring their guns closer to their targets. 
Both beaches had a very shallow gradi- 
ent and tides that receded so rapidly 



1 Unless otherwise noted, detail For this chapter is 
derived from Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, and from 
Samuel E. Morison, "History of United States Naval 
Operations in World War 11," vol. XI, The Invasion of 
France and Germany (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 
1957). 



300 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



that a boat beached for even a few 
moments at ebb stuck fast until the next 
incoming water. The tidal range of 
eighteen feet uncovered a 300-yard flat 
at low tide. An invasion attempt at low 
tide would thus force the infantry to 
walk 300 yards under enemy fire across 
the undulating tidal flat, crisscrossed 
with r unnels and ponds two to four feet 
deep. | (Map I3J\ 

The assault objective of V Corps' 1 st 
and 29th Infantry Divisions was the 
smaller OMAHA Beach, a gentle, 7,000- 
yard curve of sand. An eight-foot bank 
of coarse shingle marked the seaward 
edge of the western part of the beach. 
The shingle offered some meager cover 
to an infantryman but barred passage 
to wheeled vehicles. Back of the beach, 
and some two hundred yards from the 
shingle line at the center, a line of grass- 
covered bluffs rose dramatically 100 to 
170 feet. At either end the bluffs ran 
down to merge with the rocky head- 
lands that enclosed OMAHA and made 
the flanking coastline impractical for 
amphibious landings of any conse- 
quence. A bathing resort before the 
war, the area was not thickly populated, 
but four farming settlements were nes- 
tled 500 to 1,000 yards inland on the 
bluffs above the beaches. A single main 
road, part of a predominantly east-west 
network, roughly paralleled the coast 
from Vierville-sur-Mer at the western 
reaches of OMAHA through St. Laurent- 
sur-Mer, Colleville-sur-Mer, and finally 
Ste. Honorine-des-Pertes before pass- 
ing into the British Second Army sec- 
tor behind the beaches to the east. 
Access to the beaches from the farm- 
ing communities was through four large 
and several smaller gullies or draws. 
Through one of these, dropping from 
Vierville to the water, a gravel second- 



ary road ran to the beach and turned 
to the east. It continued beside a six- to 
twelve-foot timber and masonry seawall 
to Les Moulins, a small village directly 
on the sea in the draw in front of St. 
Laurent. From there back to St. Laurent 
and in the draw from Colleville to the 
water, roads were no more than cart 
tracks or sandy paths. A line of bathing 
cabanas and summer cottages had nes- 
tled beneath the bluffs west of Les Mou- 
lins in an area known as Hamel-au- 
Pretre, but the Germans had razed most 
of them as they erected their beach 
defenses and cleared fields of fire. There 
were few signs of habitation east of Les 
Moulins, and the foot paths at that end 
of the beach ran out altogether in the 
marsh grass sand. 2 

The NEPTUNE planners divided OMA- 
HA Beach into eight contiguous land- 
ing zones. From its far western end to 
the draw before Vierville, Charlie Beach 
was the target of a provisional Ranger 
force. Next were the main assault areas, 
Dog and Easy beaches. Dog Green, 970 
yards long, Dog White, 700 yards, and 
Dog Red, 480 yards, stretched from the 
Vierville draw to the one at Les Moulins. 
Easy Green began there, running 830 
yards east. Easy Red, 1 ,850 yards, strad- 
dled the draw going up to Colleville, 
and Fox Red, 3,015 yards at the far left 
of the beach, had a smaller draw on its 
right-hand boundary. The five draws, 
vital beach exits, were simply named: 
the Vierville exit became D — 1, the one 
at Les Moulins leading to St. Laurent, 
D— 3; E— 1 lay in the middle of Easy 
Red leading up between St. Laurent 
and Colleville; the Colleville draw off 



1 War Department, Historical Div, Omaha Beach- 
head, 6 June- 1 3 June 1944, American Forces in Action 
Series (Washington, 1945) pp. 8—16. 



PREPARING FOR D-DAY LANDINGS 301 




MAP 15 



Fox Green became E— 3, and the smaller 
one leading off Fox Red, F— 1. . 

After a 45-minute air and naval bom- 
bardment on D-day, the reinforced 
116th Regimental Combat Team, as- 
signed to the 29th Infantry Division 
(but attached to the 1st Division for the 
assault), was to land on Dog Green, Dog 
White, Dog Red, and Easy Green, pre- 
ceded moments earlier by four compa- 
nies of the 741st Tank Battalion serv- 
ing as assault artillery. The 16th Regi- 
mental Combat Team, 1st Infantrv 
Division, was to touch down on Easy 
Red and Fox Green, with a battalion 
landing team on each beach. The as- 
sault units were to push through the 
German defense along the beaches, 
especially in the draws leading inland, 
by the .time the landing was three hours 



old. Reinforced with additional forces 
coming ashore, V Corps would then 
consolidate an area of hedgerow coun- 
try bounded on the south by the line of 
the Aure River by the end of D-day. 

German defenses in the area from 
Caen west, taking in the Cotentin and 
Brittany peninsulas, fell under the Ger- 
man Seventh Army. In the OMAHA area 
the counterinvasion force on the coast 
consisted of two divisions, the 716th, a 
static or defense division having no 
equivalent in the American Army, and 
the 352d, a conventional infantry divi- 
sion capable of counterattack and rapid 
movement. In general the Germans 
concentrated on emplacing a coastal 
shield, following Field Marshal Erwin 
Rommel's strategy of defeating an inva- 
sion at the water's edge. The demands 



302 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



of the war in the east denied the vaunted 
German Atlantic Wall the concrete, the 
mines, and the trained men Rommel 
wanted, but the beach defenses, though 
incomplete, were formidable enough 
for any assault force. 3 

Since the Germans considered a low- 
tide landing impossible because of the 
exposed area in front of their guns, 
they littered the tidal flat with obstacles 
to catch landing craft coming ashore at 
high tide. About 250 yards from the 
shingle line stood a row of complicated 
structures called Element C, nicknamed 
Belgian gates because they resembled 
the ornamental ironwork of a European 
chateau. Festooned with waterproofed 
mines, they covered either end of the 
beach but not its center. Behind them 
were irregular rows of single upright 
or slightly canted steel stakes, V-shaped 
channeled rails that could tear out the 
bottom of a landing craft; roughly every 
third one had a Teller mine fixed atop 
it. The Germans had emplaced and 
mined logs and built shallow, mined 
ramps with one upright wooden pole 
supported by two longer trailing legs. 
Closest to the high-water mark was a 
row of hedgehogs, constructed by bolt- 
ing or welding together three or more 
channeled rails at their centers so as to 
project impaling spokes in three direc- 
tions. The tidal flat contained no bur- 
ied mines, since the sea water rapidly 
made them ineffective. 4 

On shore, twelve Fixed gun emplace- 
ments of the German coastal defense 
net between the Vire River and Port- 
en-Bessin could fire directly on the 
beach. The defenders concentrated 



3 IlM., pp. 20-28. 

4 Operation Rpt Nektone, OMAHA Beach, 26 Febru- 
ary-26 June 1944, 30 Sep 44, pp. 62-66. 



their pillboxes at the all-important 
beach exits and supplemented the artil- 
lery pieces with automatic-weapons and 
small-arms firing pits. They dug anti- 
tank ditches ten feet deep and thirty 
feet wide across the mouths of the 
draws. One pillbox, set in the embank- 
ment of the Vierville draw, D— 1, could 
enfilade the beach eastward as far as 
Les Moulins. On the landward side of 
the shingle bank and along the seawall 
they erected concertina barbed wire 
and laced the sand with their standard 
Schu and Teller mines. From the trench 
system on the bluffs above they could 
also activate an assortment of explosive 
devices, using old French naval shells 
and stone fougasses (TNT charges that 
blew out rock fragments) against any 
attackers scaling the heights. 

In January 1944 the COSSAC staff 
decided to strengthen the American 
attempt to seize Cherbourg by revising 
OVERLORD to bring another corps 
ashore closer to that port. Because of 
the river lines and the marshy terrain 
to the west of OMAHA, V Corps ran the 
risk of being stopped around the town 
of Carentan before wheeling into the 
Cotentin peninsula. The revised plan 
assigned the VII Corps, with the 4th 
Infantry Division in the assault, to the 
second American D-day beach. 

A straight 9,000-yard stretch of rath- 
er characterless coastline, UTAH lay on 
a north-south axis west of the mouth of 
the Douve and to the east of the town 
of Ste. Mere-Eglise. A masonry seawall 
eight feet high ran the length of the 
beach, protecting the dunes behind it 
from storms. At intermittent points 
along this barrier sand had piled up to 
make ramps as high as the wall itself; 
only a wire fence atop the wall marked 
its presence. German defenders had 



PREPARING FOR D-DAY LANDINGS 



303 



flooded the low-lying pastureland be- 
tween the beach and Ste. Mere-Eglise 
to a depth of four feet. A series of east- 
west causeways carried small roads 
across the flood; each ended at a break 
in the seawall which normally gave ac- 
cess to the beach, but which the 
Germans had also blocked to contain 
an assault force from the sea. 

The beach assault area lay between 
two hamlets, La Madeleine on the south 
and Les Dunes de Varreville on the 
north. The southerly Uncle Red Beach, 
1,000 yards long, straddled a causeway 
road named Exit No. 3; it led directly 
to the village of Audouville-la-Hubert, 
due east of Ste. Mere-Eglise and three 
miles behind the beach. Tare Green 
Beach, occupying the 1,000 yards to the 
right of Uncle Red, had few distinguish- 
ing natural features. At UTAH, the 8th 
Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Divi- 
sion, was to go ashore two battalion 
landing teams abreast, closely followed 
by the 70th Tank Battalion as artillery 
support. 5 

Neptune also called for a parachute 
and glider assault into the area behind 
UTAH. To cut the Cotentin peninsula 
at its base, C OSS AC planners originally 
scheduled airdrops south and east of 
Ste. Mere-Eglise and farther west in the 
vicinity of St. Sauveur-le-Vicomte. But 
when the 91st Infantry Division rein- 
forced the peninsula in May, the First 
Army staff had to consider a less ambi- 
tious airborne undertaking. The 82d 
Airborne Division would be dropped 
astride the Merderet River, a tributary 
of the Douve running two miles west of 
Ste. Mere-Eglise, and the 101st Air- 
borne Division in the area south of the 



5 Dept of the Army, Historical Div, Utah Beach to 
Cherbourg, 6 June— 27 June 1944, American Forces in 
Action Series (Washington, 1947), pp. 4-7. 



town early on D-day before the 4th 
Infantry Division landed at UTAH. Glid- 
er trains would bring in reinforcements 
and heavier weapons to consolidate a 
perimeter enclosing a section of the 
Carentan-Cherbourg highway and at 
least the inland portions of the cause- 
ways that would serve as beach exits. 6 
A lack of high ground made the Ger- 
man defenses at UTAH somewhat less 
imposing than at OMAHA. The defend- 
ers relied heavily on the inundated low- 
lands behind the beach to channel an 
attack and on a series of small infantry 
strongpoints to pin down a larger force 
trying to leave the beach over the cause- 
ways. Consistent with their strategic 
conception, the German works were 
well forward. Two German divisions, 
the 709th Infantry, manned with east- 
ern Europeans, mainly Georgians, and 
the 243d Infantry, had constructed nu- 
merous resistance points along the high- 
water mark. On the tidal flat they had 
placed the obstacles encountered at 
OMAHA and another antitank device 
called a tetrahedron, a small pyramid 
of steel or concrete. Barbed-wire entan- 
glements and minefields, covered by 
rifle, automatic, and mortar fire from 
the infantry trenches, began at the 
water's edge. Concrete pillboxes, some 
with tank turrets set into them, swept 
the beaches with arcs of fire. The vil- 
lages at the edges of UTAH were con- 
verted into fortified areas command- 
ing both the beach and sectors of the 
inundated land to the rear. Just right 
of center on Tare Green, the Germans 
dug a deep antitank ditch to hinder 
vehicles and tanks coming in from the 
sea. At UTAH the enemy also intro- 
duced the Goliath, a miniature, radio- 
controlled tank loaded with explosives 

6 Ibid., p. 9. 



304 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



and designed to engage incoming land- 
ing craft and armor. The arrival in late 
May of the 91st Division, with a battal- 
ion of tanks, gave considerable depth 
to the defense between Carentan and 
Valognes, but the defenders of the 
beaches themselves could hardly ma- 
neuver, since their own flooding con- 
fined them to positions in the narrow 
coastal strip where there was little room 
for regrouping and counterattack. 

Despite the serious German aggrega- 
tion of firepower along the coastline, 
NEPTUNE planners in the months be- 
fore the invasion worried most about 
obstacles. In early 1944 as aerial photo- 
graphs of the German-held coastal areas 
showed a proliferation of obstacles on 
the invasion beaches, the Allies grew 
more and more alarmed. A month 
before D-day, General Eisenhower 
listed the devices as among the "worst 
problems of these days." 7 

Beach Obstacle Teams 

In deriving plans and strategems to 
overcome the obstacle problem the 
Allies drew on their experience, though 
the new situation exceeded in size and 
complexity anything they had previous- 
ly encountered. In the ill-fated Dieppe 
raid of August 1942, British and Cana- 
dian forces had met concrete walls and 
blocks set with steel spikes designed to 
impale landing craft. The British had 
then established an Underwater Obsta- 
cle Training Center, but its elaborate 
training courses were chiefly geared for 
Mediterranean beach landings. The 
British experience prompted the chief 
of engineers to propose a similar Army 
center in the United States, but in the 

7 Ltr, Eisenhower to Marshall, 6 May 44, Eisenhower 
personal files. 



spring of 1943 the Navy took over all 
amphibious training. The engineers 
then selected a site for a beach obstacle 
course close to the Navy's Amphibious 
Training Base at Fort Pierce, Florida. 

The course began in July 1943, and 
throughout the fall a company of com- 
bat engineers conducted experiments 
in coordination with the Navy. The tests 
indicated that the obstacles that re- 
mained after a thorough bombing of 
the beaches could probably be blown to 
bits by such devices as the "Apex," a 
remote-controlled drone boat, and the 
"Reddy Fox," an explosive-laden pipe 
that could be towed into the area and 
sunk. The engineers could also destroy 
obstacles with rocket fire, preferably 
from rocket launchers mounted on a 
tank; at low tide heavy mechanized 
equipment such as the tankdozer could 
push most obstacles out of the way. 8 

Although the engineers were testing 
these methods, ETOUSA planners 
hoped that such removal work would 
prove unnecessary, for during 1943 
reconnaissance had uncovered no ob- 
stacles along the Normandy coast. In- 
deed, an early engineer plan assumed 
that there would be no obstacles or that, 
if the Germans attempted to install any 
at the last minute, naval gunfire and 
aerial bombardment would take care 
of them. As a last resort, alternative 
beaches might be chosen. 9 

This optimism waned in late January 
1944, when aerial reconnaissance dis- 
closed hedgehogs on the beach at Quine- 
ville, just north of the UTAH section of 

s Coll, Keith, and Rosenthal, The Corps of Engineers: 
Troops and Eqwpment, \x>\>. 472— 76| Ltr, Senior Member, 
Joint Army-Navy Experiment and Testing Board, to 
CinC, U.S. Fleet, 18 Dec 43. 

9 Col E. G. Paules, Notes on Breaching Under- Water 
and Shore Obstacles and Land Mine Fields, Mar- Apr 
44, Incl 1. 



PREPARING FOR D-DAY LANDINGS 



305 



the Gotentin coast. Disturbed at this 
turn of events, General Eisenhower sent 
Lt. Col. Arthur H. Davidson, Jr., of Gen- 
eral Moore's staff and Lt. Col. John T. 
O'Neill, commander of V Corps' 1 12th 
Engineer Combat Battalion, to attend 
an obstacle demonstration at Fort Pierce 
in Florida between 9 and 1 1 February. 10 

Returning to the theater about two 
weeks later, Davidson and O'Neill 
found D-day planners studying aerial 
photographs that showed the Germans 
were planting obstacles on the tidal flats 
below the high-water mark — a great 
hazard to landing craft. Subsequent 
photographs revealed that obstacles, 
usually planted in three rows, were mul- 
tiplying rapidly not only in the UTAH 
area but also, beginning late in March, 
at Omaha. Planners assumed that they 
were all strengthened with barbed wire 
and mines. That assumption proved 
correct on 23 April when an Allied 
bomb intended for a coastal battery fell 
on the beach, producing fourteen sec- 
ondary explosions. Aerial photographs 
showed the obstacles proliferating on 
all beaches right up to D-day. 11 ' 

Detailed planning for breaching the 
obstacles on D-day began in the United 
Kingdom in mid-March 1944 when 
General Bradley directed V and VII 
Corps to submit clearing plans for 
Omaha and Utah beaches by 1 April. 
Because time was short, Bradley told 
planners to depend on only the troops, 



'"Engineer Operations by the VII Corps in the 
European Theater, vol. II, "Normandy," p. 2; Rpt, Lt 
Col J. T. O'Neill, Summary of Activities of the Provi- 
sional Engr Gp, 8 Jul 44 (hereafter cited as O'Neill 
Rpt), in AGF Bd Rpt 253, E TO, Engr Rpt on Land- 
ings in Normandy, 5 Oct 44. 

1 1 O'Neill Rpt; AAR, Omaha Beach Provisional Engr 
Spec Bde Gp, Operation Rpt Neptune, pp. 62—66; 
Engr Opns VII Corps, vol. II, "Normandy," p. 3. 



materials, equipment, and techniques 
then available in the theater. 

Available troops included the corps' 
combat engineers, engineer special bri- 
gades, and sixteen naval combat demo- 
lition units (NCDUs). Each NCDU con- 
sisted of five enlisted men and an of- 
ficer — the capacity of the black rubber 
boats NCDUs used in their work. They 
had been trained to paddle to shallow 
water and then go overboard, wading 
to shore and dragging the explosive- 
filled boat behind them. The first unit, 
members of the earliest Fort Pierce 
graduating class, arrived in the theater 
at the end of October 1943. By March 
1944 all sixteen units had arrived and 
had been assigned to naval beach battal- 
ions training at Salcombe, Swansea, and 
Fowey. The demolition units had little 
idea of precisely what their role on 
D-day would be. They had no training 
aids other than those they could impro- 
vise, nor were they told until mid- April 
(because of strict security regulations) 
the type of obstacles being discovered 
along the Normandy beaches. 12 

On 1 April 1944, V Corps submitted 
to First Army a plan for breaching 
obstacles, prepared jointly with the XI 
Amphibious Force, U.S. Navy. The 
plan recommended that an engineer 
group consisting of two engineer com- 
bat battalions and twenty NCDUs be 
organized and specially trained for the 
Omaha assault; VII Corps submitted a 
similar smaller scale plan for UTAH. 13 

li; Cdr. Francis Douglas Fane, USNR, and Don 
Moore, The Naked Warriors (New York: Appleton, 
Century, and Crofts, 1956), p. 21; Rpt on the Work of 
U.S. Naval Combat Demolitions Units, Naval and Air 
Support folder, Adm 493, ETOUSA Hist Sect. Unless 
otherwise cited the section on underwater obstacles is 
based on these two sources and on O'Neill Rpt and 
Engr Opns VII Corps, vol. II, "Normandy." 

'* HQ, V Corps, Prefacing Plan, Underwater and 
Beach Obstacles, Omaha Beach, in Engineer Special 



306 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



The V Corps commander, Maj. Gen. 
Leonard T. Gerow, was disturbed to 
learn on 9 April that First Army still 
had adopted no definite obstacle plan 
and that training had barely started. 
That same day First Army asked V 
Corps to send two engineer companies 
and a tank company with tankdozers to 
the Assault Training Center at Woola- 
combe. The 299th Engineer Combat 
Battalion, with personnel specially 
trained at Fort Pierce, was to arrive in 
the United Kingdom on 16 April, but 
only about one-third of the battalion 
had been trained in the removal of 
underwater obstacles. Another cause 
for worry was a scarcity of tankdozer 
blades. To speed the adoption of a spe- 
cific plan and undertake vital training, 
Gerow enlisted the support of Brig. 
Gen. William B. Kean, First Army chief 
of staff. Kean had to admit that "this 
whole subject had been worked out far 
too late." Gerow sent two engineer com- 
panies with four tankdozers and six 
NCDUs to begin training at Woola- 
combe on 12 April. 14 

Army and Navy representatives for- 
mulated detailed plans beginning 15 
April, when for the first time demoli- 
tion men obtained precise information 
on the tidal-flat obstacles they could 
expect to encounter. Because of the 
number and density of the obstacles, 
the conferees decided to attack them 
"dry shod," ahead of the incoming tide. 



Brigades on Omaha Beach, Notes and Data Used in 
Connection with Operation NEFl'UNE, Omaha Beach, 
Prov Engr Spec Bde Gp (hereafter cited as Notes and 
Data Neptune). 

14 Ltrs, Gerow to Kean, 10 Apr 44, and Kean to 
Gerow, 13 Apr 44, copies in Notes and Data Neftune; 
O'Neill participated in the planning for Omaha along 
with Colonel McDonough, commanding officer of the 
1 ] 2th Engineer Combat Group, and Lt. Col. Patillo, V 
Corps representative at the Obstacle Training Center 
to study British methods and techniques. O'Neill Rpt. 



This decision helped fix the invasion 
date — only on 5, 6, or 7 June would the 
engineers have enough daylight after 
H-hour to destroy the obstacles before 
the onrushing Channel tide covered 
them. The decision to attack dry shod 
also obviated the need for Apex boats — 
luckily, for the freighters bringing them 
from the United States did not arrive 
in England until mid-May, too late to 
prepare the boats for use. The first 
Reddy Foxes, which might have helped, 
came in the same shipment and had to 
be put in storage along with the Apexes 
because there was no time to train men 
in their use. Under such circumstances, 
the most practicable method of breach- 
ing the obstacles seemed that of plac- 
ing explosive charges by hand, although 
NCDU officers continued to warn that 
this course would be possible only if 
enemy fire could be neutralized. 15 

On OMAHA, gaps fifty yards wide 
were to be blown through the obstacles, 
two in each beach subsector. The 
broader Easy Red would be breached 
in six places. Combined Army-Navy 
boat teams of thirty-five to forty men 
carried in LCMs were to undertake the 
task. The sailors were to destroy the 
seaward obstacles, the soldiers to han- 
dle those landward and to clear mines 
from the tidal flat. First on the scene 
would be the assault gapping team (one 
to each gap), composed of twenty-seven 
men from an Army engineer combat 
battalion (including one officer and one 
medic) and an NCDU augmented to 
thirteen men by the attachment of five 
Army engineers to help with demoli- 
tions and two seamen to handle the 
explosives and tend the rubber boats. 

The assault teams were to be followed 
by eight support teams, one to every 

15 Bradley, A Soldier's Story, pp. 260-61. 



PREPARING FOR D-DAY LANDINGS 



307 



two assault teams, of about the same 
composition. Two command boats com- 
pleted the flotilla. Command was to be 
an Army responsibility because the 
obstacles would presumably be dry at 
the time of clearing operations. Each 
assault team was to be supported by a 
tankdozer to clear obstacles. All boats 
were to carry some 1,000 pounds of 
explosives, demolition accessories, mine 
detectors, and mine gap markers. The 
command boats were to carry a ton of 
extra explosive. 16 

At UTAH Beach eight fifty-yard gaps 
were planned, four in each of the two 
landing sectors. Boat teams were to be 
employed in a somewhat different man- 
ner. Twelve NCDUs, each consisting of 
an officer and fifteen men (including 
five Army engineers) carried in twelve 
LCVPs, were to attack the seaward 
band of obstacles. Simultaneously, eight 
Army demolition teams, each consist- 
ing of an officer and twenty-five en- 
listed men carried in eight LCMs, were 
to attack the landward obstacles. Four 
Army reserve teams of the same size, 
also in LCMs, were to follow the eight 
leading Army teams shoreward. As at 
Omaha, the attackers would rely heav- 
ily on standard engineer explosives and 
tankdozers, and the Army would have 
command responsibility for obstacle- 
clearing operations. 

On 30 April, V Corps organized the 
V Corps Provisional Engineer Group 
for the Omaha assault. Under Colonel 
O'Neill, formerly commander of the 
112th Engineer Combat Battalion, the 
provisional group consisted of the 146th 
Engineer Combat Battalion, the 299th 
Engineer Combat Battalion (less one 
company), and twenty-one NCDUs. 

16 Hist 146th Engr C Bn, Jun-Dec 44; FO 1 , 299th 
Engr C Bn, 28 May 44, in Notes and Data Neptune. 



Ultimately, 150 demolition-trained men 
of the 2d Infantry Division joined the 
provisional group to bring its strength 
to 1,050. Upon its attachment to the 
1st Infantry Division for the assault, the 
provisional group was redesignated the 
Special Engineer Task Force. 

For UTAH obstacle-clearing opera- 
tions VII Corps organized the Beach 
Obstacle Demolition Party under Maj. 
Herschel E. Linn, commander of the 
237th Engineer Combat Battalion. 
Smaller than the OMAHA organization, 
the UTAH group consisted mainly of 
one company of the 237th Engineer 
Combat Battalion, another from the 
299th Engineer Combat Battalion, and 
twelve NCDUs. To supply the remain- 
ing naval support to the UTAH and 
OMAHA forces, additional NCDUs 
arrived from the United States on 6 
May. 17 

On 27 April, when direction of train- 
ing for OMAHA passed from First Army 
to V Corps control, two engineer com- 
bat battalions (less one company) and 
twenty-one NCDUs went to Woola- 
combe for training, but not until I May 
were aerial photographs of OMAHA 
available for study. Obstacles of the 
kind shown in detail in low-level photo- 
graphs were then erected at Woola- 
combe, and though training aids were 
lacking the troops practiced debarking 
from landing craft with explosives and 
equipment and experimented with 
waterproofing methods, tankdozer em- 
ployment, barbed-wire breaching, and 
other techniques. 18 

An NCDU officer, Lt. (jg.) Carl P. 
Hagensen, developed a method for flat- 
tening the big Belgian gate obstacles 



17 Hist 1 106th Engr C Gp, Jun-Dec 44. 

18 Rpt, T/5 Royce L. Thompson, Sep 44, in folder, 
U.S. Training Center, Adm 533, ETOUSA Hist Sect. 



308 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



with the least danger to troops and 
landing craft from steel fragments and 
shards. Tests indicated that sixteen 
"Hagensen packs" — small sausage-like 
waterproof canvas bags filled with two 
pounds of a new plastic explosive, Com- 
position C— 2, and fitted with a hook at 
one end and a cord at the other — could 
be quickly attached to the gates' steel 
girders. When a connecting "ring main" 
of primacord exploded the packs simul- 
taneously, the gate fell over. 

Ten thousand Hagensen packs — with 
canvas bags sewn by sailmakers in lofts 
throughout England — were produced 
during an eleventh-hour roundup of 
gear and equipment that began when 
the brief training period ended in mid- 
May. Some improvisation of supplies 
proved possible. For example, mortar 
ammunition bags could hold water- 
proof fuses and the twenty Hagensen 
packs each demolition man would carry. 
Nevertheless, procurement problems 
were considerable. The OMAHA obsta- 
cle teams alone required twenty-eight 
tons of explosives and seventy-five miles 
of primacord. Tankdozers, D— 8 ar- 
mored dozers, special minefield gap 
markers, special towing cables, and a 
multitude of miscellaneous engineer 
items also had to be procured. The 
materiel was found and assembled in a 
remarkably short ten days. 

There was also little time for train- 
ing the demolition teams. Joint train- 
ing for most of the Army-Navy teams 
started late and for many units lasted 
no more than two weeks. On 15 May 
the NCDUs moved to Salcombe, a Navy 
amphibious training center, and spent 
their time preparing Hagensen packs 
and obtaining final items of gear. Not 
until the end of May did they rejoin 
the Army demolition teams, which since 



mid-May had been waiting for D-day 
in their marshaling areas farther east. 1 J 
In addition to the obstacle problem 
there remained a second engineer re- 
sponsibility, equally central to the success 
of the operation: the organization of 
the supply moving on an unprecedented 
scale across a complex of invasion 
beaches. First Army planners turned 
to the proven engineer special brigades, 
but then devised new command arrange- 
ments to accommodate the sheer mass 
of the invasion traffic. 

The Engineer Special Brigades 

At this stage of the war, the engineer 
special brigades in the European the- 
ater were exclusively shore units since 
the Navy had taken their watercraft. 
The brigades now had additional ser- 
vice units to accomplish the enormous 
cargo transfers necessary for assault 
operations. Basic units included three 
engineer combat battalions, a medical 
battalion, a joint assault signal company, 
a military police (MP) company, a 
DUKW battalion, an ordnance battal- 
ion, and various quartermaster troops. 
Extra equipment included power cranes, 
angledozers, motorized road graders, 
tractors, and six-ton Athey trailers. 20 

13 For criticism by officers of the 299th Engineer 
Combat Battalion demolition teams on the inadequacy 
of the Navy briefings, as well as the length of time 
spent in marshaling areas with "nothing to do," see 
interviews with Capt. William J. Bunting and Maj. 
Milton Jewett, in Notes and Data Neptune. 

20 Lt Clifford L. Jones, The Administrative and 
Logistical History of the European Theater of Opera- 
tions, vol. VI, "Neptune: Training for Mounting the 
Operation, and Artificial Ports," March 1946, in CMH. 
Unless otherwise noted, the rest of this chapter is based 
on this source and on Heavey, Dawn Ramp! The Story of 
the Army Amphibian Engineers. For the assumption by 
the Navy early in 1943 of landing craft operation and 
amphibious training, see Coll, Keith, and Rosenthal, 
The Cnrfc of Engineers: Troops and Equipment, pp. 
385-90. 



PREPARING FOR D-DAY LANDINGS 



309 



The 1st Engineer Special Brigade, 
which had reached a strength of some 
20,000 men in Sicily, moved to England 
in December 1943 with only a nucleus 
of its old organization — 3,346 men, 
including a medical battalion, a quar- 
termaster DUKW battalion, a signal 
company, and some ordnance troops. 
Unlike the other two engineer brigades 
to be employed in NEPTUNE, the 1st 
Engineer Special Brigade had an expe- 
rienced unit in the 531st Engineer Shore 
Regiment, which had served in the 
Northwest Africa, Sicily, and Salerno 
landings. The 1st Engineer Special Bri- 
gade expanded in England to some 
15,000 troops by D-day. 21 

The 5th Engineer Special Brigade 
was organized in the United Kingdom 
on 12 November 1943 from the 1 1 19th 
Engineer Combat Group with three 
attached engineer combat battalions 
(the 37th, 336th, and 348th). The 6th 
Engineer Special Brigade was formed 
in January 1944 from the 1 1 16th Engi- 
neer Combat Group (147th, 149th, and 
203d Engineer Combat Battalions). The 
staff of the 111 6th brought with it a 
plan, conceived during training in the 
United States, to employ battalion beach 
groups, each composed of an engineer 
combat battalion with attached troops. 
This concept was similar to that the 1st 
Engineer Special Brigade had devel- 
oped in the Mediterranean. 

The 6th Engineer Special Brigade 
planned to deploy two battalion beach 
groups on the beach, with another engi- 
neer combat battalion assuming respon- 
sibility for most of the work inland. The 
beach groups were to unload cargo 
from ships and move it to dumps. They 
were also responsible for roads, mine 



21 Hist IstESBJun 42-Sep 45. 



clearance, and similar engineer work; 
reinforced quartermaster and ordnance 
battalions would operate the dumps. In 
the assault phase all operations of the 
6th Engineer Special Brigade were to 
be controlled by the reinforced 149th 
Engineer Combat Battalion Beach 
Group. As operations progressed into 
the beach maintenance phase, the vari- 
ous battalions were to regain control of 
their elements initially attached to the 
149th and to assume responsibility for 
their operations. 22 

The 5th Engineer Special Brigade 
divided itself into three battalion beach 
groups. Each consisted of an engineer 
combat battalion, a naval beach com- 
pany, a quartermaster service company, 
a DUKW company, a medical collec- 
tion company, a quartermaster railhead 
company, a platoon of a quartermaster 
gasoline supply company, a platoon of 
an ordnance ammunition company, a 
platoon of an ordnance medium auto- 
motive maintenance company, military 
police, chemical decontamination and 
joint assault signal platoons, and two 
auxiliary surgical teams. 23 

Headquarters, First Army, the Ameri- 
can tactical planning agency, outlined 
the responsibilities of the engineer spe- 
cial brigades in an operations memo- 
randum on 13 February 1944. Each 
engineer battalion beach group would 
support the assault of a regimental com- 
bat team and each engineer company 
groupment the assault landing of an 
infantry battalion landing team. First 
Army also authorized the grouping of 



22 Rpt, HQ, 6th ESB, to TAG, thru GO, Omaha 
Beach Cmd, 20 Jul 44, sub: Operation Rpt Neptune 
(hereafter cited 6th ESB Neptune Rpt). 

a * Gol Doswell Gullatt, Operation Rpt Neptune, 
6-26 Jun 44, inclusive, HQ, 5th Engr Spec Bde, 20 
Jul 44 (hereafter cited as 5th ESB Gullatt Rpt Neptune). 



310 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



the 5th and 6th Engineer Special Bri- 
gades under a headquarters known as 
the Provisional Engineer Special Bri- 
gade Group. It soon became evident 
that the two brigades would not be suf- 
ficient to handle the OMAHA operation, 
which, besides the beaches, included an 
artificial port and the minor ports of 
Grandcamp-les-Bains and Isigny. The 
1 1th Port (TC), which had been operat- 
ing the Bristol Channel ports, then aug- 
mented the engineer group with four 
port battalions, five DUKW companies, 
three quartermaster service companies, 
three quartermaster truck companies, 
an ordnance medium automotive main- 
tenance company, and a utility detach- 
ment — more than 8,000 men in all. Ear- 
marked to operate the pierheads and 
minor ports, the 1 1th Port required no 
training in beach operations. 

Assault Training and Rehearsals 

The combat battalions of both the 5th 
and 6th Engineer Special Brigades had 
had amphibious training on the Atlan- 
tic coast at Fort Pierce, Florida, the U.S. 
Navy's Amphibious Training Base. But 
some units, notably quartermaster units, 
had had no amphibious training before 
joining the brigades, and the training 
the 5th Engineer Special Brigade's com- 
bat battalions received in the United 
States proved "elementary" in the light 
of the heavy demands soon to be placed 
upon the units. Brigade units received 
further training in mine work, Bailey 
bridge construction, road maintenance, 
and demolitions upon arrival at Swansea 
on the south coast of Wales early in 
November; by early January 1944 they 
were receiving training in landing oper- 
ations at nearby Oxwich Beach. The 
6th Engineer Special Brigade, stationed 



at Paignton in Devon, conducted sim- 
ilar exercises at neighboring Goodring- 
ton Sands during February. 24 

The first of a series of major exer- 
cises involving assault troops and shore 
engineers began in early January 1944 
at Slapton Sands on the southern coast 
of England, an area from which some 
6,000 persons had been evacuated from 
eight villages and eighty farms. The 
exercise, called DUCK I, involved 10,000 
troops. The assault forces consisted of 
the inexperienced 29th Infantry Divi- 
sion of V Corps. To give the division 
some training with shore engineers, the 
V Corps commander called on Col. 
Eugene M. Caffey, commanding offi- 
cer of the 1st Engineer Special Brigade 
(stationed at Truro in Cornwall), for 
support. The brigade had arrived in 
England from the Mediterranean under- 
strength and with no equipment, but, 
by scouring England for equipment and 
borrowing officers and units, Colonel 
Caffey was able to furnish elements of 
his brigade for the exercise. 

Succeeding exercises, DUCK II and 
III, were held in February to train ele- 
ments of the 29th Division and the 1st 
Engineer Special Brigade that had not 
participated in DUCK I. The beach at 
Slapton Sands was ideal for training, 
since it approximated conditions later 
found at UTAH. But one purpose of 
the combined exercise — accustoming 
assault forces to the beach organization 
tasks that would face them on D-day — 
could not be realized because OVER- 
LORD tactical plans were not firm until 
late in February. After the 1st Engi- 
neer Special Brigade learned it would 
not be with the 29th Division but with 



24 6th ESB Neptune Rpt; 5th ESB Gullatt Rpt 
Neptune; De Arman, Hist 5th ESB; Hist 6th ESB, 
J 944. 



PREPARING FOR D-DAY LANDINGS 



311 




Infantry Troops Leave LST During Exercise Fabius at Slapton Sands, 
April 1944. 



the 4th, the brigade participated in a 
series of seven exercises with elements 
of the 4th Division during the last two 
weeks of March. The first four practice 
sessions involved engineer detachments 
supporting battalion landing teams; the 
next two involved regimental combat 
teams. VII Corps conducted the last 
exercise on a scale approaching DUCK 
I. Two regimental combat teams trained 
with a large beach party from the 1st 
Engineer Special Brigade and extra 
engineers, parachute troops, and air 
forces elements. 25 
Exercise FOX, involving 17,000 troops 



25 T/4 Clifford L. Jones, Notes on Utah Beach and 
1st ESB, Feb 45. 



scheduled to land at OMAHA, took place 
at Slapton Sands 9—10 March. The 
37th Engineer Combat Battalion Beach 
Group of the 5th Engineer Special Bri- 
gade supported the 16th Regimental 
Combat Team, and the 149th Engineer 
Battalion Beach Group of the 6th Engi- 
neer Special Brigade supported the 
1 16th Regimental Combat Team. This 
exercise had been delayed so that it 
could parallel final tactical planning for 
OVERLORD, and it suffered to some 
extent from late and hurried prepara- 
tions as well as the inexperience of the 
units participating. Neither the mount- 
ing nor the beach operations went as 
well as hoped, but both the engineers 
and the assault troops learned better 



312 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



use of DUKWs and more efficient water- 
proofing of vehicles. 2 ' 1 

The major exercises led to the two 
great rehearsals for the invasion: TIGER 
and FABIUS. TIGER, the rehearsal for 
the UTAH landings, came first. Some 
25,000 men including the 4th Infantry 
Division, airborne troops, and the 1st 
Engineer Special Brigade participated 
under the direction of VII Corps. TIGER 
lasted nine days (22—30 April) with the 
first six given over to marshaling. Land- 
ings in the Slapton Sands area were to 
begin at 0630 on 28 April. 

At 0130 eight LSTs, proceeding west- 
ward toward the assault area with the 
1st Engineer Special Brigade, troops of 
the 4th Division, and VII Corps head- 
quarters aboard, were attacked off Port- 
land by enemy craft, presumably Ger- 
man E-boats. Torpedoes sank two LSTs 
and damaged a third so badly that it 
had to be towed back to Dartmouth. 
The German craft machine-gunned the 
decks of the LSTs and men in the 
water. LST— 531, with 1,026 soldiers 
and sailors aboard, had only 290 sur- 
vivors; total U.S. Army casualties were 
749 killed and more than 300 wounded. 
The 1st Engineer Special Brigade, with 
413 dead and 16 wounded, suffered 
heavily in the action. Its 3206th Quar- 
termaster Service Company was virtu- 
ally wiped out, and the 557th Quarter- 
master Railhead Company also sustained 
heavy losses. Both had to be replaced 
for the invasion. 27 

Shattered by the disaster, which re- 
duced it to little more than its assault- 
phase elements, the 1st Engineer Spe- 
cial Brigade made a poor showing in 



26 Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies, Vol- 
ume I, pp. 348-49. 

Hist 1st ESB, 6 Dec 43- 1 Nov 44; 1st ESB (Utah), 
pp. Tl-24. 



TIGER. Observing the landings from an 
LCI offshore, General Bradley was 
disturbed. For some "unexplained rea- 
son" a full report on the loss of the 
LSTs, which he came later to consider 
"one of the major tragedies of the Euro- 
pean war," did not reach him, and from 
the sketchy report he received he con- 
cluded that the damage had been slight. 
Attributing the poor performance of 
the brigade to a breakdown in com- 
mand, he suggested to Maj. Gen. J. 
Lawton Collins, commanding VII 
Corps, that a new commander be as- 
signed. Collins gave the job to Brig. 
Gen. James E. Wharton. Thus by a 
combination of misfortune and misun- 
derstanding, Col. Eugene M. Caffey, 
who had led the 1st Engineer Special 
Brigade in the Sicily landings, was not 
to lead it on D-day in Normandy. 28 

FAB I US consisted of six exercises car- 
ried out under the direction of 2 1 Army 
Group. FABIUS I was the rehearsal for 
Force O, the 1st Division units that were 
to assault OMAHA Beach. Approxi- 
mately 25,000 troops participated in 
FABIUS I, including three regimental 
combat teams and various attached ser- 
vice troops. FABIUS II, III, IV, and V 
were British rehearsals carried out at 
the same time. FABIUS VI was a mar- 
shaling exercise for follow-up Force B 
(the 29th Division) and the British forces 
in the buildup. It ran from 3 April to 7 
May, with a simulated D-day on 3 May. 

Every effort was made to deploy regi- 
mental combat teams from the 1st and 
29th Divisions plus two Ranger and two 
tank battalions supported by three engi- 
neer combat battalions on the second 
tide on D-day and 300 tons of supply 



Bradley, A Soldier's SUrry, pp. 247-49. 



PREPARING FOR D-DAY LANDINGS 



313 




on D plus 1 — including treadway bridg- 
ing, Sommerfeld track, coir matting, 
and other material for building and 
improving beach roads. A number of 
faults showed up in beach operations, 
but since D-day was only a month away 
no drastic revisions could be undertaken. 
The most important result of the exer- 
cise was a change in the landing sched- 
ules; elements of the military police 
company, the brigade headquarters, 
and the signal company were to land 
considerably earlier than originally plan- 
ned. After FABIUS was over, most of 
the units that had participated went 
directly to their marshaling areas. 

Marshaling the Invasion Force 

The primary responsibilities for mar- 
shaling engineer personnel, vehicles, 
and supplies for shipment to Normandy 
fell to the engineers of Western Base 
Section (WBS) and especially Southern 
Base Section (SBS), which had a larger 
number of marshaling areas. U.S. forces 
in the initial assault were to embark 
from points in England west of Poole, 
and early reinforcements were to load 
at ports in the Bristol Channel in ad- 
vance of the operation. Later reinforce- 
ments were to move through Southamp- 
ton, Pordand, and Plymouth. 

Of the nine major marshaling and 
embarkation areas in SBS, the British 
operated one. The British and Ameri- 
cansjointly ran two areas around South- 
ampton; the Americans operated the 
other six areas. Each marshaling area 
was to be used to 75 percent of its 
capacity, with the remaining 25 percent 
kept in reserve to accommodate troops 
and vehicles that might not be able to 
move out because of enemy action, 
adverse weather, or other circumstance. 



COLONEL CAFFEY (Photograph taken in 1952.) 

SBS made available many engineer 
troops, including general service regi- 
ments, camouflage companies, water 
supply companies, fire-Fighting pla- 
toons, and various smaller detachments 
to help operate the marshaling areas. 29 
In the marshaling areas the first step 
was to construct necessary additional 
installations. Because the ports did not 
have the capacity to load the huge inva- 
sion fleet at one time, base section engi- 
neers had to build, either within the 
ports or along riverbanks, concrete 



OCE ETOUSA Hist Rpt 9, Marshalling for Over- 
lord (United Kingdom), 1946, pp. 10-18, and tig. 1, 
Marshalling Areas for Overlord, Liaison Sect, Intel 
Div, ETOUSA Adm file 547. 



314 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



aprons from existing roads to the water's 
edge. Known as "hards" (for hard- 
standings), the aprons had to extend 
out into the water. They consisted of 
precast concrete units, called "chocolate 
bars" because of their scored checker- 
board surfaces. Averaging ten inches 
in thickness, each section measured 
about 2-by-3-feet, which, laid end to 
end, formed a rough road. Both sides 
of the slabs were scored — the top sur- 
face to prevent vehicles from slipping, 
the bottom surface to bite into the 
beach. The landing craft or landing 
ships anchored at the foot of the hard 
or apron, let down their ramps, and 
took on vehicles and personnel dry 
shod; no piers or docks were necessary. 
Because landing craft were of shallow 
draft, flat-bottomed, and most unsta- 
ble in rough seas and because the south 
coast of England was generally unpro- 
tected, windswept, and subject to tides 
that greatly changed water depths, care- 
ful reconnaissance and British advice 
were necessary to locate loading sites 
or embarkation points in sheltered sec- 
tions, generally in a port or a river 
mouth. 

Next came the selection of tempo- 
rary camp sites near embarkation points. 
The capacity for out-loading from a 
certain group of hards determined the 
size and number of camps located near- 
by. Each marshaling area had railheads 
for storing all classes of supplies, and 
every camp was supposed to maintain 
a stock of food, along with fast-moving 
items. 

The marshaling areas were of two 
patterns, large camps that might accom- 
modate as many as 9,000 men and 



Southern Base Section History, Aug 43— Aug 44 
p. 4, Adm 601, ETOUSA Hist Sect. 



sausage-style camps — fourteen small 
camps, each with a capacity of 230 men, 
ranged along five to ten miles of road- 
way. These small camps provided bet- 
ter dispersal and the possibility of good 
camouflage, for tentage followed hedge- 
rows. But they required more person- 
nel for efficient operation because some 
degree of control was lost. Good cam- 
ouflage practices were not always fol- 
lowed. 31 

Most of the camps consisted of quar- 
ters for 200 enlisted men (often in 
pyramidal tents), officers' quarters, 
orderly rooms, supply rooms, cooks' 
quarters, kitchen, mess halls, and la- 
trines. Special briefing tents with sand 
tables were also available. Where neces- 
sary, engineers erected flattops over 
open areas used for mess lines. 32 In 
both the Southern and Western Base 
Sections they also constructed security 
enclosures and special facilities. Engi- 
neers had to maintain and waterproof 
engineer task force vehicles. Each mar- 
shaling camp had either a concrete tank 
or a dammed stream for testing water- 
proofing. Roads, railroads, bridges, and 
dock and port facilities were primarily 
British responsibilities, and American 
engineers performed maintenance in 
these areas only on request or in case 
of emergency. 3 

The Western Base Section's task was 
easier than Southern Base Section's for 
little new construction was required. 
Existing troop camps were big enough 
and close enough to the ports. Camp 
capacities were increased by billeting 
eighteen instead of sixteen men in each 



*' Hist 604th Engr Camouflage Bn. 
92 Hist 1306th Engr GS Rgt. 

ss Col Fenton S. Jacobs, Western Base Section, vol. 
II, p. 349, Adm 603D, ETOUSA Hist Sect. The 
account of WBS activities is based on this source. 



PREPARING FOR D-DAY LANDINGS 



315 



16-by-36-foot hut and by adding an 
extra man to each seven-man 16-by- 
1 6-foot pyramidal tent. Additional tents 
were also erected with construction 
materials the Royal Engineers contrib- 
uted. 

Providing the needed accommoda- 
tions in both Western and Southern 
Base Sections entailed much more than 
acquiring buildings and erecting tents. 
An acute shortage of base section engi- 
neer operating personnel which arose 
in the spring of 1944 promised to be- 
come worse once the invasion- 
mounting machinery went into full 
swing. SOS, ETOUSA, officials recog- 
nized the problem as early as February 
1944 and saw the need to use field 
forces to help out. General Lee esti- 
mated that at least 15,000 field force 
troops would be required, along with 
46,000 SOS troops who would have to 
be taken off other work. As a result, 
ETOUSA permitted an entire armored 
division to be cannibalized to provide 
some of the troops needed for house- 
keeping in the marshaling areas. Of the 
total, 4,500 were assigned as cooks, but 
many of these men were not qualified. 
General Moore thought the shortage 
in mess personnel was frequently the 
weakest part of the engineer phase of 
marshaling. 34 

Briefings began in the marshaling 
areas on 22 May 1944. The Provisional 
Engineer Special Brigade Group's com- 
mander, Brig. Gen. William M. Hoge, 
issued a simple but effective order: "It 
is my desire that every individual sol- 
dier in this command, destined for the 
far shore, be thoroughly instructed as 
to the general mission and plan of his 



M Bradley, A Soldier's Story, p. 247; OCE ETOUSA 
HisL Rpt 9, Marshalling for Overlord, p. 58. 



unit, and what he is to do." The men 
received instruction in briefing tents 
containing models of the Normandy 
beaches, maps, overprints, charts, aerial 
photographs, and mosaics. 35 

Battalion beach groups formed from 
the 5th and 6th Engineer Brigade 
Groups, the latter initially under the 
5th Engineer Special Brigade, were to 
support the V Corps landings on the 
7,000-yard stretch of beach fronting the 
Vierville-Colleville area. The 5th Engi- 
neer Special Brigade was to operate all 
shore installations in sectors Easy, Fox, 
and George to the left of the common 
brigade boundary. The 6th Engineer 
Special Brigade was to operate those in 
sectors Charlie, Dog, and Easy to the 
right of the brigade boundary. Head- 
quarters, Provisional Engineer Special 
Brigade Group, was to assume control 
of the two brigades as soon as its com- 
mand post was established ashore. The 
1st Division (less the 26th Regimental 
Combat Team), with the 29th Division's 
1 16th Regimental Combat Team and 
other troops attached, made up Force 
O, the initial assault force. The 29th 
Division, less the 116th Regimental 
Combat Team but with the 26th Regi- 
mental Combat Team and other troops 
attached, constituted the immediate 
follow-up force, Force B. 36 

Upon landing, engineer special bri- 
gade engineers were to relieve divi- 
sional engineers on the beaches. Then 
they were to develop and expand the 
roadway system and open additional 
exits and roads within the established 
beach maintenance area, with the goal 



,3 Hist 5th ESB, p. 60, Adm 120, ETOUSA Hist 
Sect. 

S6 De Arman, HisL 5th ESB. Unless otherwise noted, 
this account of the 5th Engineer Special Brigade plans 
is Laken from this source. 



316 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



of having that area fully developed by 
D plus 3. Initially beach dumps were to 
be set up about a thousand yards inland; 
later the brigade group was to consoli- 
date these dumps up to five miles inland. 
Separate areas were to be set aside for 
USAAF dumps, troop transit areas, and 
vehicle transit areas. 

The 5th Engineer Special Brigade 
undertook a number of tasks, some in 
support of or in coordination with the 
Navy. The men marked naval hazards 
near the beach, determined the best 
landing areas, and then marked the 
beach limits and debarkation points. 
They helped remove beach obstacles 
and developed and operated assault 
landing beaches. They controlled boat 
traffic near the beach and directed the 
landing, retraction, and salvage of craft 
as well as unloading all craft beaching 
within their sector. Brigade members 
also developed beach exits to permit 
the flow of 120 vehicles an hour by H 
plus 3, organized and operated initial 
beach dumps, directed traffic, and main- 
tained a naval ponton causeway. They 
operated personnel and vehicle transit 
areas, set up and operated a POW 
stockade, kept track of organizations 
and supplies that landed, and estab- 
lished initial ship-to-shore communi- 
cations. Finally, they gave first aid to 
beach casualties before evacuating them 
to ships. 

The general plan called for progres- 
sive development of the OMAHA beach- 
head in three phases. The assault phase 
would be under company control, the 
initial dump phase under battalion 
beach group control, and the beach 
maintenance dump phase under bri- 
gade control. During the first two phases 
at OMAHA Beach, groups of the 5th 
and 6th Engineer Special Brigades were 



to support the landings of the 1st Divi- 
sion. 

The 37th Engineer Battalion Beach 
Group (of the 5th Engineer Special 
Brigade) was to support the 16th Regi- 
mental Combat Team; the 149th Beach 
Group, with the 147th Beach Group 
attached (both from the 6th Engineer 
Special Brigade), was to support the 
1 16th Regimental Combat Team; and 
the 348th Beach Group (of the 5th 
Engineer Special Brigade) was to sup- 
port the 18th Regimental Combat Team. 
The 29th Division's lead regimental 
combat team, the 26th, was to be sup- 
ported by the 336th Engineer Combat 
Battalion Beach Group of the 5th Engi- 
neer Special Brigade. 

The duties of the 1 st Engineer Spe- 
cial Brigade, supporting the assault 
landings of the 4th Infantry Division 
of VII Corps on UTAH Beach, were 
similar to those of the 5th Engineer 
Special Brigade on OMAHA. Uncle Red 
Beach on the left and Tare Green Beach 
on the right were each to be operated 
by a battalion beach group of the bri- 
gade's 531st Engineer Shore Regiment; 
as soon as a third beach group could 
land, a third beach, Sugar Red, was to 
be opened at the right of Tare Green. 37 

In the briefings before D-day, the 
engineer special brigades received intel- 
ligence information concerning enemy 
forces, the progressive development of 
enemy defenses, detailed geographic 
and hydrographic studies, reports on 
local resources, and a model of the 
beach and adjacent areas. Defense over- 
prints provided detailed information 
about gun positions, minefields, beach 
obstacles, roadblocks, and antitank 



" FO 1, HQ, 1st ESB, 10 May 44, Adm 493, ETOUSA 
Hist Sect. 



PREPARING FOR D-DAY LANDINGS 



317 



ditches. An Admiralty Tide Chart pre- 
pared at scale 1:7,920 was valuable, as 
was a 1:5,000 chart-map that the Infor- 
mation Section, Intelligence Division, 
OCE, published. However, the over- 
prints of land defenses and underwa- 
ter obstacles provided with these charts 
arrived too late to be of maximum ben- 
efit to the troops: the land defense over- 
print for the Admiralty Tide Chart was 
distributed after D-day. In addition, 
enemy defense information was not as 
recent as it might have been. 38 

Embarkation 

After the briefings and final water- 
proofing of their vehicles to withstand 
4V2-foot depths, the troops split into ves- 
sel loads and moved to their embarka- 
tion points or hards. The 5th Engineer 
Special Brigade embarked at Portland, 
Weymouth, and Falmouth between 3 1 
May and 3 June. Elements of the bri- 
gade scheduled for the first two tides 
with Force O loaded aboard troop trans- 
ports (APs and LSIs), landing ships and 
craft (LSTs, LCTs, and LCIs), cargo 
freighters, and motor transport ships. 

Like other components of the assault 
force, the engineers were to go ashore 
in varied craft to reduce the risk of los- 
ing an entire unit in the sinking of a 
single vessel. Each unit of the brigade 
had an assigned number of personnel 
and vehicle spaces, and the total was 
considerable — 4,188 men and 327 ve- 
hicles, including attached nonengineer 
units. Force B, scheduled to land on 
the third tide with 1,376 men and 277 
vehicles, loaded on a single wave for 
better control on the assumption that 
the risk of losing vessels would be much 

S8 5th ESB Gullatt Rpt Neptune; Jones, Notes on 
Utah Beach. 



less by the time of its landing. The 1st 
Engineer Special Brigade units in Force 
U loaded at Plymouth, Dartmouth, 
Torquay, and Brixham beginning on 
30 May. The assembly of Force U was 
somewhat more difficult than that of 
Force O because its loading points were 
more widely scattered. 40 

Most assault demolition teams were 
jammed aboard 100-foot LCTs, each 
already carrying two tanks, a tankdozer, 
gear, and packs of explosives in addi- 
tion to its own crew. When they arrived 
at the transport area, the teams were to 
transfer to fifty-foot LCMs to make the 
run to the beach. Because insufficient 
lift was available to carry the LCMs. in 
the customary manner, such as on davits, 
LCTs towed them to the transport area. 41 

Before midnight of 3 June the engi- 
neers were aboard their ships and on 
their way to their rendezvous points 
beyond the harbors. D-day was to be 5 
June. The slow landing ships and craft 
of Force U got under way during the 
afternoon of 3 June because they had 
the greatest distance to go; those of 
Force O sortied later in the evening. 
The night was clear but the wind was 
rising and the water was becoming 
choppy. At dawn, after a rough night 
at sea, the vessels were ordered to turn 
back. D-day had been postponed. Sun- 
day, 4 June, was a miserable day for 
the men jammed aboard the landing 
ships and craft under a lashing rain. 

At dawn next morning the order 
went out from the supreme com- 
mander that D-day would be Tuesday, 



39 De Arman, Hist 5th ESB. 

4 " 1st ESB, Boat Assignment Table, an. 2 to FO 1, 
Adm 493, ETOUSA Hist Sect; Ruppenthal, Logistical 
Support of ike Armies, Volume I, pp. 372—73. 

Fane and Moore, The Naked Warriors, p. 5 1 ; O'Neill 
Rpt; Engr Opns VII Corps, vol. II, "Normandy," p. 9. 



318 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



6 June. The word came to many of the 
engineers as it did to those of the 147th 
Engineer Combat Battalion aboard 
LCI -92: 

Suddenly a hush spread above the din and 
clamor of the men. . . . And then, as if coin- 
ciding with silence, a clear, strong voice 
extending from bow to stern, and reaching 
every far corner of the ship, announced 
the Order of the Day issued by the Supreme 



Commander. The men strained to catch 
every word, "you are about to embark on 
the Great Crusade. . . . Good Luck! And let 
us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God 
upon this great and noble undertaking." 
For the next few moments, heads were 
bowed as if in silent prayer. This was the 
word. Tomorrow was D-day. 42 



Hist 147th Engr C Bn, 29 Jan 43-4 Mar 46. 



CHAPTER XV 



The Landings on OMAHA and UTAH 



Darkness over the English Channel 
on the night of 5 June 1944 concealed 
five thousand ships, spread over twenty 
miles of sea, plowing the choppy waters 
toward Normandy. Two American and 
three British task forces traveled their 
separate mine-swept lanes to the mid- 
point of the Channel. Each lane divided 
there into two sublanes, one for the 
naval fire support vessels and the faster 
transports, the other for slower craft 
jammed with tanks, field pieces, and 
wheeled vehicles. 

Force O, destined for OMAHA, and 
Force U, headed for UTAH, arrived in 
designated transport areas ten miles off 
the French coast after midnight, and 
the larger ships began disgorging men 
and equipment into the assault LCVPs 
swinging down from the transports' 
davits and hovering alongside. Smaller 
landing craft churned around the larger 
ships with their own loads of infantry, 
equipment, and armor for the assault. 
LCTs carried the duplex-drive amphibi- 
ous Sherman tanks that would play a 
vital part in the first moments of the 
invasion. The spearhead of the assault 
on OMAHA, the tanks were to enter the 
water 6,000 yards offshore, swim to the 
waterline at Dog White and Dog Green, 
and engage the heavier German em- 
placements on the beaches five minutes 
ahead of the first wave of infantry. 



At H-hour, 0630, with the tide just 
starting to rise from its low point, 
another wave of Shermans and tank- 
dozers was to land on Easy Green and 
Dog Red, followed a minute later by 
the assault infantry in LCVPs and Brit- 
ish-designed armored landing craft 
called LCAs. At 0633 the sixteen assault 
gapping teams were due on OMAHA, 
and their support craft were to follow 
them during the next five minutes. The 
demolition teams, with the help of the 
tankdozers, had just under half an hour 
to open gaps in the exposed obstacle 
belts before the main body of the infan- 
try hit the beaches. The later waves also 
had combat engineers to blow addi- 
tional gaps, clear beach exits, aid assault 
troops in moving inland, and help orga- 
nize the beaches. Off UTAH a similar 
scene unfolded, with the duplex-drive 
tanks scheduled to go in on the heels of 
the first wave of the 8th Infantry assault, 
followed in five minutes by the Army- 
Navy assault gapping teams and detach- 
ments from two combat engineer battal- 
ions. 1 

Engineers on Omaha, 
The eight demolition support teams 

1 War Dept, Hist Div, Ornafia Beachhead, pp. 38-42; 
Dept of the Army, Hist Div, Utah Beach to Cherbourg, 
pp. 43-44; Operation Rpt Neptune, p. 80. 



320 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



for OMAHA and the three command 
teams aboard a British transport had 
had a chance to get some sleep during 
the night. But the gapping teams, 
crowded aboard LCTs and towed LCMs, 
were miserable. One of the LCTs had 
broken down early in the voyage, and 
several swamped in the Channel swell. 
Their drenched and seasick passengers 
transferred to the bucking LCMs in the 
blackness, no small feat considering the 
amo unt of equipment involved. (Map 

The engineers were overburdened 
for their trip to shore. Each man car- 
ried a forty-pound bag of Hagensen 
packs, wire cutters, a gas mask, car- 
tridges, an inflatable life belt, a canteen, 
rations, and a first aid packet. They had 
either carbines or Garand rifles and 
bangalore torpedoes to tear apart the 
barbed wire on the beach. Some had 
mine detectors, others heavy wire reels 
wound with 800 feet of primacord, and 
some carried bags of fuse assemblies. 
Over their uniforms all wore coveralls 
impregnated against gas, and over them 
a fur-lined jacket. Each LCM held two 
rubber boats, each containing about 500 
pounds of explosives, extra bangalores, 
mine detectors, gap markers, buoys, 
and from 75 to 100 cans of gasoline. 2 

Almost from the beginning, things 
began to go wrong for the sixteen gap- 
ping teams. They managed to transfer 
from the LCTs to the LCMs on schedule, 
around 0300. At 0450, twenty minutes 
after the amphibious tanks and the first 
infantry assault wave started for shore, 
the demolition teams were on their way 
to the line of departure, some two miles 



offshore. Behind them, their support 
teams were delayed when their LCMs 
failed to arrive on time, and they en- 
countered difficulties getting into smal- 
ler craft from the attack transports. 
Unable to load completely until 0500, 
the support elements finally got under 
way at 0600, far too late to reach the 
tidal flat in time to help the gapping 
teams. The precisely timed schedules, 
conceived for fair weather and calm 
seas, were breaking down even before 
the engineers reached the shore. 3 

The assault gapping teams headed 
landward heartened by the rain of metal 
descending on enemy positions. The 
eight assault teams assigned to the east- 
ern sector of OMAHA with the 16th 
Regimental Combat Team reached the 
line of departure at first light; Navy 
control boats herded them into their 
correct lanes for Easy Red and Fox 
Green beaches. As they headed for 
shore, heavy shells of the naval bom- 
bardment whistled over their heads, 
and at 0600 bombers arrived with the 
first of some 1,300 tons of bombs drop- 
ped on the invasion area on D-day. The 
sight made the drenched, shivering 
men in the boats momentarily forget 
their misery. They were cheered in 
their certainty that the Air Forces would 
saturate the beaches, and when a Brit- 
ish rocket ship loosed the first of a bar- 
rage of 9,000 missiles at the German 
positions, hope mounted that the Ger- 
man artillery and machine-gun nests 
would be silent when the LCMs came 
in. Optimists recalled a statement from 
a briefing aboard one of the transports: 
"There will be nothing alive on the 



2 Fane and Moore, The Naked Warriors, pp. 51—52; 8 Interv, Maj Milton Jewett, CO, 299th Engr C Bn, 
Interv, Capt William J. Bunting, Jnl, and FO I, 299th in Notes and Data, Neptune; Hisl 146th Engr C Bn; 
Engr C Bn, in Notes and Data, Neptune. O'Neill Rpt. 



321 




MAP 16 



beach when you land." 4 

The illusion did not sustain them 
long, for the bombers had flown through 
cloud cover that forced their crews to 
rely on imperfect blind bombing tech- 
niques. Only two sticks of bombs fell 
within four miles of the shore defenses, 
though the area behind the beaches 
took a thorough pounding. The Brit- 
ish rockets made a fine display, but dis- 
appeared over the cliffs to dig up the 
landscape behind the German coastal 
works. The naval barrage beginning at 
H minus 45 minutes was also more 
effective inland, contributing to the dis- 
ruption of German communications. 
The combined power of the air and 
naval bombardment did much to iso- 
late the battle area. But the German 
shore batteries on OMAHA, located in 
bunkers and enfilading the beach so 



1 Fane and Moore, The Naked Warriors, p. 50; Intervs, 
Bunting and Jewett, Notes and Dala, Nkptunk. 



that they could fire no more than a few 
hundred yards out to sea, remained 
mute during the opening moments of 
the action. Offering no muzzle flashes 
to give away their positions to the Navy 
gunners and invite their own destruc- 
tion, they were largely intact when the 
first wave of engineers, tanks, and infan- 
try hit the tidal flat. 5 

For the first troops in, OMAHA was 
"an epic human tragedy which in the 
early hours bordered on total disaster." 6 
The morning mists and the smoke raised 
in the bombardment concealed land- 
marks in some sectors, and a strong 
tidal crosscurrent carried the boats as 



r ' The Adm and Log Hist of the ETO, vol. VI, 
"Neptune: Training for Mounting the Operation, and 
Artificial Ports," pp. 14-15; Operation Rpt Nl'.H'UNK, 
p. 82; Col. Paul W. Thompson, "D-day on Omaha 
Beach," Infantry Journal, LVI (June 1945), 40. 

S. L. A. Marshall, "First Wave at Omaha Beach," 
in Battle at Best (New York: William Morrow and Co., 
1963), p. 52. 



322 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS. THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 




Tanks and Vehicles Stalled at the Shingle Line on Omaha Beach 



much as two thousand yards east of 
their intended landfalls. The 741st 
Tank Battalion launched twenty-nine 
of its thirty-two duplex-drive tanks off- 
shore and immediately lost twenty- 
seven when they foundered or plunged 
directly to the bottom of the Channel 
upon leaving their LCTs. Two swam 
ashore, and the remaining three landed 
from beached LCTs, only to fall prey 
at the waterline to German gunners. 
Machine-gun fire whipped among the 
engineer and infantry landing craft, 
intermingled now, and followed them 
to the beach. As the ramps dropped, a 
storm of artillery and mortar rounds 
joined the automatic and small-arms 
fire, ripping apart the first wave. Dead 
men dotted the flat; the wounded lay 



in the path of the onrushing tide, and 
many drowned as the surf engulfed 
them. An infantry line formed at the 
shingle bank and, swelled by fearful, 
dispirited, and often leaderless men, 
kept up a weak volume of fire as yet 
inadequate to protect the engineers. In 
the carnage, the gapping teams, suffer- 
ing their own losses, fought to blow the 
obstacles. 

On the left of Easy Red, one team 
led the entire invasion by at least five 
minutes. The commander of Team 14, 
2d Lt. Phill C. Wood, Jr., was under 
the impression that H-hour was 0620 
instead of 0630. Under his entreaties, 
the Navy coxswain brought the LCM 
in at 0625, the boat's gun crew unsuc- 
cessfully trying to destroy Teller mines 



THE LANDINGS ON OMAHA AND UTAH 



323 



on the upright stakes. Wood and his 
team dragged their explosive-laden 
rubber boat into waist-deep water under 
a hail of machine-gun fire. No one was 
on the beach. The lieutenant charged 
toward a row of obstacles, glancing 
backward as he ran. In that moment he 
saw an artillery shell land squarely in 
the center of the craft he had just left, 
detonating the contents of the second 
rubber boat and killing most of the 
Navy contingent of his team. The LCM 
burned fiercely. Wood's crew dropped 
bangalore torpedoes and mine detec- 
tors and abandoned their load of ex- 
plosives. Dodging among the rows, they 
managed to wire a line of obstacles to 
produce a gap, but here the infantry 
landing behind them frustrated their 
attempt to complete the job. Troops, 
wounded or hale, huddled among the 
obstacles, using them for cover, and 
Wood finally gave up trying to chase 
them out of range of his charges. Leav- 
ing the obstacles as they were, he and 
his team, now only about half of its 
original strength, rushed forward and 
took up firing positions with the infan- 
try concentrated at the shingle. 7 

Other teams had little more success. 
Team 13's naval detachment also fell 
when an artillery shell struck its boat- 
load of explosives just after it landed 
on Easy Red. The Army contingent lost 
only one man but found the infantry 
discharging from the landing craft seek- 
ing cover among the obstacles, thus pre- 
venting the team from setting off 
charges. Team 12 left its two rubber 
boats aboard the LCM, yet managed to 
clear a thirty-yard gap on Easy Red, 



7 Interv, Ll Wood, in Notes and Data, Neitune; 
Hist 146th Engr C Bn; Fane and Moore, The Naked 
Warriors, p. 53-64. 



but at a fearful cost. A German mortar 
shell struck a line of primacord, prema- 
turely setting off the charges strung 
about one series of obstacles, killing six 
Army and four Navy demolitions men 
and wounding nine other members of 
the team and a number of infantrymen 
in the vicinity. Team 11, arriving on 
the far left flank of Easy Red ahead of 
the infantry, lost over half its men. A 
faulty fuse prevented the remainder 
from blowing a passage through the 
beach impediments. 

Only two teams, 9 and 10, accom- 
plished their missions on the eastern 
sector of OMAHA. Team 9, landing in 
the middle of Easy Red well ahead of 
the infantry waves, managed to open a 
fifty-yard path for the main assault. 
Team 10's performance was encourag- 
ing in comparison with that of the 
others. Clearing the infantry aside with- 
in twenty minutes of hitting the beach, 
the men demolished enough obstacles 
in spite of heavy casualties to create two 
gaps, one fifty yards wide and a second 
a hundred yards across. They were the 
only gaps blown on the eastern half of 
the assault beaches. 

The remaining teams assigned to that 
area had much the same dismal experi- 
ence as Lieutenant Wood's team, and 
the failure of the assault gapping effort 
became evident. At Fox Green, Teams 

15 and 16 came in later than those on 
Easy Red but met the same heavy artil- 
lery and automatic fire. At 0633 Team 

16 plunged off its LCM, leaving its rub- 
ber boats adrift when it became appar- 
ent that they drew German attention. 
Here too the men gave up trying to 
blow gaps when the infantry would not 
leave the protection of the German 
devices. Team 15 touched down at 
0640, just as the tide began rising rap- 



324 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



idly, and lost several men to machine- 
gun fire before they left the LCM. In a 
now common occurrence, they sustained 
more casualties when a shell found the 
rubber boat with its volatile load. The 
survivors nevertheless attacked the Bel- 
gian gates farthest from shore and fixed 
charges to several. The fusillade from 
shore cut away fuses as rapidly as the 
engineers could rig them. One burst of 
fragments carried away a fuseman's 
carefully set mechanism — and all of his 
fingers. With no choice but to make for 
shore, they ran, only four of their origi- 
nal forty uninjured, to the low shingle 
bank on Fox Green, where they col- 
lapsed, "soaking wet, unable to move, 
and suffering from cramps. It was cold 
and there was no sun." 8 

Seven teams bound for the 116th 
Infantry's beaches on the western half 
of OMAHA — Dog Green, Dog White, 
Dog Red, and Easy Green — were on 
schedule, most of them, in fact, coming 
in ahead of the infantry companies in 
the first waves. The eighth team landed 
more than an hour later; its LCT had 
foundered and sunk shortly after leav- 
ing England, and the team transferred 
to other craft. When it finally landed at 
0745, the team found the obstacles cov- 
ered with water. The duplex-drive tank 
crews on the western half of the beach 
came in all the way on their landing 
craft rather than attempting the swim 
ashore, but their presence was only 
briefly felt. German fire disabled many 
tanks at the shingle line where they had 
halted, unable to move farther, and 
those remaining could not silence the 
heavier enemy guns. The men of Team 



* Interv, S/Sgt James M. Redmond, Team 15, Notes 
and Data, Neptune. 



8, landing a little to the left of Dog 
Green, saw no Americans on the beach 
but confronted a German party work- 
ing on the obstacles. The Germans fled, 
and the team was able to blow one fifty- 
yard gap before the American infantry 
arrived. Teams 3 and 4, badly shot up, 
achieved little, and Teams 5 and 7 could 
do no blasting after the incoming infan- 
try took cover among the beach obstruc- 
tions. The only positive results came 
when Teams 1 and 6 each opened a 
fifty-yard gap, one on Dog White and 
one on Dog Red. Command Boat 1, on 
the beach flat at 0645, unloaded a crew 
that made an equally wide hole in the 
obstacles on Easy Green. Where the 
engineers successfully blew lanes open, 
they had first to cajole, threaten, and 
even kick the infantry out of the way. 
Gapping team members later recalled 
that the teams had more success if they 
came in without firing the machine 
guns on the LCMs, since their distinc- 
tive muzzle flashes gave their range to 
the enemy. 

The tardy support teams appeared 
off the eastern beaches, all carried off 
course and landing between 0640 and 
0745 on or around Fox Red. The Ger- 
man artillerymen at the eastern reaches 
of OMAHA met them with fearsomely 
accurate fire. One 88-mm. piece put 
two rounds into Team F's LCM, killing 
and wounding fifteen men; only four 
men of the original team got to shore. 
Team D got a partial gap opened, mak- 
ing a narrow, thirty-yard lane, but the 
other teams could do little. The men 
arriving later found the German fire 
just as heavy, and the incoming tide 
forced them to shore before they could 
deploy among the obstacles. They joined 
the earlier elements that had found 



THE LANDINGS ON OMAHA AND UTAH 



325 



shelter under the cliffs at the eastern 
end of the beach. 9 

Their strength reduced to a single 
machine, engineer tankdozers could 
offer little help. Only six of the sixteen 
M-4s equipped with bulldozer blades 
got ashore, and the enemy picked off 
five of them. The remaining one pro- 
vided the engineers an alternative to 
blowing up the obstacles, an increas- 
ingly hazardous undertaking as more 
troops and vehicles crowded onto the 
beaches. Instead of using demolitions, 
which sent shards of metal from the 
obstacles careening around the area, 
the teams set about removing the mines 
from stakes, ramps, hedgehogs, and 
Belgian gates, and let the tankdozers, 
joined later in the day by several ar- 
mored bulldozers, shove the obstacles 
out of the way as long as the tide per- 
mitted. Pushed ashore after 0800 by 
the inrushing water, the gapping teams 
helped move wounded men off the 
tidal flat and consolidated equipment 
and the supply of explosives to await 
the next ebb. 

In the meantime the Navy had dis- 
covered that the obstacles did not pose 
the expected problem once they were 
stripped of their mines. Shortly after 
1000, several destroyers moved to with- 
in a thousand yards of the beach. Engag- 
ing the German emplacements with 
devastating 5-inch gunfire, they began 
to accomplish what the tanks in the first 
assault could not. Using the covering 
fire, two landing craft, LCT— 30 and 
LCI— 554, simply rammed through the 
obstacles off Fox Green, battering a 
path to shore with all automatic weap- 



ons blazing. Though LCT— 30 was lost 
to fire from the bluffs, the other vessel 
retracted from the beach without loss, 
and dozens of other craft hovering off- 
shore repeated the maneuver with the 
same result. 10 

When the first morning tide inter- 
rupted the work of the gapping teams, 
they had opened just five holes, and 
only one of these, Team 10's 100-yard- 
wide lane on Easy Red, was usable. 
Their ranks virtually decimated in their 
first half-hour ashore, the teams' mem- 
bers were often bitter when they dis- 
cussed their experience later. Most of 
the equipment the LCMs carried had 
been useless or worse; the rubber boats 
with their explosives had drawn heavy 
fire, and the engineers had abandoned 
them as quickly as possible. The mine 
detectors were useless since the enemy 
had buried no mines in the flat, and 
German snipers made special targets 
of men carrying them. With no barbed 
wire strung among the obstacles, the 
bangalore torpedoes the engineers 
brought in were only an extra burden. 
Overloaded and dressed in impreg- 
nated coveralls, the engineers found 
their movement impeded, and wounded 
and uninjured men alike drowned un- 
der the weight of their packs as they 
left the landing craft. The survivors also 
criticized the close timing of the inva- 
sion waves that left them only a half 
hour to clear lanes. The confusion pro- 
duced when the engineers landed si- 
multaneously with or even ahead of the 
infantry led to the opinion that there 
also should have been at least a half 
hour between the first infantry assault 



'•' Cornelius Ryan, The Longest Day, June 6, 1944 (New 
York: Simon and Schuster, 1959), pp. 190-91 ; Oper- 
ation Rpt Neptunk, p. 85; O'Neill Rpt. 



'" Morison, The Invasion of France and Germany, p. 
141. 



326 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



and the arrival of the gapping teams. 
In future actions, support teams should 
go in with the groups they were back- 
ing up rather than behind them in the 
invasion sequence. Lastly, as a tactical 
measure, the gapping team veterans 
recommended that the first concern 
should be to strip the mines from any 
obstacles encountered so as to render 
them safe for tankdozers or landing 
craft to ram. 1 1 

The human cost of the engineers' 
heroism on OMAHA was enormous. 
When the Army elements of the gap- 
ping teams reverted on D plus 5 to con- 
trol of the 146th and 299th Engineer 
Combat Battalions, then attached to V 
Corps, they had each lost between 34 
and 4 1 percent of their original strength. 
The units had not yet accounted for all 
their members, and the Navy set losses 
among the naval contingents of the 
teams at 52 percent. Fifteen Distin- 
guished Service Crosses went to Army 
members of the team; Navy demolitions 
men received seven Navy Crosses. Each 
of the companies of the 146th and 
299th Engineer Combat Battalions in- 
volved and the naval demolition unit 
received unit citations for the action on 
D-day. 12 

The end of the first half hour on 
D-day saw approximately 3,000 Ameri- 
can assault troops on OMAHA, scattered 
in small clumps along the sand. Iso- 
lated from each other and firing spo- 
radically at the enemy, they sought to 
advance up the small defiles leading to 



11 Operation Rpt Neptune, p. 92; Cdr. Kenneth 
Edwards, RN, Operation Neptune (London: Collins, 
1946), p. 149; Intervs, Bunting and Jewett, Notesand 
Data, Neptune. 

12 O'Neill Rpt; War Dept, Hist Div, Omaha Beach- 
head, pp. 43, 165—66; Fane and Moore, The Naked 
Warriors, pp. 65—66. 



the flanks and rear of German positions, 
but no forward motion was yet evident. 
On the right, or western, flank of the 
beach in front of Vierville in the 1 16th 
Infantry's zone, the Germans had taken 
the heaviest toll among the incoming 
men, and the assault of Company A, 
1 16th Infantry, crumbled under the 
withering fire. Reinforcements were 
slow, often carried off course to the east 
in the tidal current. A thousand yards 
east, straddling Dog Red and Easy 
Green, lay elements of two more com- 
panies from the 116th, confused by 
their surroundings but less punished 
by German fire since the defensive posi- 
tions above were wrapped in a heavy 
smoke from grass fires that obscured 
vision seaward. Sections of four differ- 
ent companies from both assault regi- 
ments landed on the Fox beaches and, 
huddled with engineers from the gap- 
ping teamsj fired at opportune targets 
or contemplated their next moves. Only 
in the stretch between the Colleville and 
St. Laurent draws, Exits E- 1 and E— 3, 
was there relative safety. The German 
posts in the bluffs here seemed un- 
manned through the whole invasion, 
which also permitted the more success- 
ful performance of the gapping teams 
on Easy Red. But the success of the 
invasion on OMAHA now depended 
upon getting the troops and vehicles off 
the beaches and through the German 
coastal defensive shell. 

Opening the Exits 

While the ordeal of the gapping teams 
was still in progress, a second phase of 



1,1 Col. Paul W. Thompson, "D-day on Omaha Beach," 
Infantry Journal, LX1, no. 6 (June 1945), 34-48; 
Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, p. 315; War Dept, Hist 
Div, Omaha Beachhead, pp. 45—47. 



THE LANDINGS ON OMAHA AND UTAH 



327 



engineer operations on OMAHA began 
with the arrival of the first elements of 
the 5th Engineer Special Brigade. These 
units were charged with bringing some 
order out of the chaos of the invasion 
beaches. For the purpose some engi- 
neer combat battalions became the core 
units for beach groups, which included 
a DUKW company, quartermaster units 
for gasoline and other supply, a medi- 
cal detachment, ordnance ammunition, 
maintenance, and bomb disposal units, 
and an assortment of signal, chemical, 
and military police companies. A com- 
pany from a naval beach battalion com- 
pleted the organization to assist in struc- 
turing the beaches for supply opera- 
tions. Four groups had assignments on 
OMAHA for D-day. The 37th Engineer 
Battalion Beach Group supported the 
16th Regimental Combat Team, 1st 
Division, and the 149th was behind the 
116th Infantry. The 348th was to facili- 
tate the landing of the 18th Infantry, 
following the 16th on the eastern end 
of the beach. The 336th Engineer Bat- 
talion Beach Group was scheduled to 
arrive in the afternoon to organize Fox 
Red. All the groups were under 5th 
Engineer Special Brigade control until 
the assault phase was over; the 149th 
Engineer Battalion Beach Group would 
then revert to the 6th Brigade. 14 

The earliest elements stepped into 
the same fire that cut up the gapping 
teams. First in was a reconnaissance 
party from Company A, 37th Engineer 
Combat Battalion, led by the company 
commander; it landed at 0700, ten min- 
utes ahead of schedule, opposite the 
E— 3 draw on Fox Green. Sections of 
the remainder of Company A and a 



platoon of Company C, accompanying 
a headquarters group, arrived over the 
next several minutes, but the entire 
complement of the battalion's men 
wound up hugging the shingle bank and 
helping to build up the fire line. Another 
engineer section, this one from Com- 
pany C, 149th Engineer Combat Bat- 
talion, scheduled for landing on Dog 
Red, landed on Easy Green. They set 
to work there, and a small detachment 
began digging a path through the dune 
line to the road paralleling the shore. 
A second detail wormed its way through 
gaps cut in the barbed wire and ap- 
proached the base of the cliffs, only to 
be halted by an antitank ditch. Enemy 
fire forced the group back to the shin- 
gle line. Two companies from the 147th 
Engineer Combat Battalion suffered 
forty-five men lost to artillery fire even 
before their LCT set them down off 
Dog White at 0710. In the five-foot surf 
they lost or jettisoned their equipment 
and found shelter after a harrowing 
run for the shingle. 15 An LCI put Com- 
pany B, 37th Engineer Combat Bat- 
talion, ashore safely at 0730 at Exit 
E — 1, leading to St. Laurent, which the 
battalion was supposed to open for the 
2d Battalion of the 16th Infantry. Com- 
pany A was to open Exit E— 3 for the 
3d Battalion but did not arrive until 
0930. Landing near E— 1, Company A 
had to make its way through the wreck- 
age on the beach to E — 3, where the 
unit ran into such withering artillery, 
mortar, and small-arms fire that it could 
accomplish little all day. Unluckiest of 
all was Company C, which was to push 
inland and set up transit areas. A direct 
hit to its LCI on landing at Exit E— 1 
killed many men. In the same area one 



11 Operation Rpt Neptune, p. 37. 



15 Ibid., p. 87. 



328 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



of two LCIs carrying the battalion staff 
broached on a stake; the men had to 
drop off into neck-deep water and wade 
ashore under machine-gun fire. 16 Com- 
ing in with the fifth wave, they had 
expected to find OMAHA free of small- 
arms fire. Instead, the beach was 
crowded with the men of the first waves 
crouching behind the shingle. Deadly 
accurate artillery fire was still hitting 
the landing craft, tanks, and half-tracks 
lining the water's edge; one mortar shell 
killed the commander of the 37th Engi- 
neer Combat Battalion, Lt. Col. Lionel 
F. Smith, and two members of his staff, 
Capts. Paul F. Harkleroad and Allen- 
H. Cox, Jr., as soon as they landed. 
Badly shaken, the engineers joined the 
infantrymen behind the shingle bank. 

By 0930, infantry penetrations of the 
German positions above the beach were 
beginning to have some effect, though 
only a few men were scaling the heights. 
Rangers and elements of the 116th 
Infantry got astride the high ground 
between Exits D— 1 and D— 3 around 
0800 and slowly eliminated some of the 
automatic weapons trained on Ameri- 
can troops below. Between St. Laurent 
and Colleville, companies from both 
regiments got men on the heights. One 
company raked the German trenches 
in the E— 1 draw, capturing twenty-one 
Germans before moving farther inland. 
In the F — 1 draw back of Fox Red, most 
coordinated resistance ended by 0900, 
but isolated nests of Germans remained. 
The movement continued all morning, 
and the engineers either joined attempts 
to scale the bluffs or made it possible 
for others to climb. 

Beyond the shingle on Easy Green 



and Easy Red were a double-apron 
barbed-wire fence and minefields cov- 
ering the sands to the bluffs. As the 
infantry advances began to take a toll 
of the German defenders on the bluffs, 
Sgt. Zolton Simon, a squad leader in 
Company C, 37th Engineer Combat 
Battalion, gathered his five-man mine- 
detector crew, cut a gap in the wire, 
and led his men into the minefield. Dis- 
regarding the fire, they methodically 
opened and marked a narrow path 
across the mined area, into a small 
defile, and up the hill. Simon was 
wounded once while helping to sweep 
mines and again when he reached the 
hilltop, this time so seriously that he 
was out of action. By now, infantry was 
on the trail behind him, urged into the 
gap by 1st Lt. Charles Peckham of Com- 
pany B, who stood exposed to enemy 
fire directing men across the mine- 
swept corridor. 17 

The task remained of getting the 
tanks inland. A platoon of the 20th 
Engineer Combat Battalion, landing in 
support of the 1st Battalion, 16th In- 
fantry, began blowing a larger gap 
through the minefield with bangalore 
torpedoes. Mine-detector crews of Com- 
pany C of the 37th Engineer Battalion 
followed to widen the lanes to accom- 
modate vehicles. But the tanks could 
not get past the shingle, where they 
could get no traction. Behind the shin- 
gle lay a deep antitank ditch. Pvt. Vinton 
Dove, a bulldozer operator of Company 
C, made the first efforts to overcome 
these obstacles, assisted by his relief 
operator, Pvt. William J. Shoemaker, 
who alternated with him in driving and 
guiding the bulldozer. Dove cleared a 



Hist 37th Engr G Bn, Mar 43-Aug 44. 



17 Ibid. Simon received the Silver Star, Peckham the 
Bronze Star, 



THE LANDINGS ON OMAHA AND UTAH 



329 




Engineers Anchor Reinforced Track for vehicles coming ashore at Omaha. 



road through the shingle, pulled out 
roadblocks at Exit E— 1, and began 
working on the antitank ditch, which 
was soon filled with the help of dozer 
operators from Company B and a com- 
pany of the 149th Engineer Combat 
Battalion that had landed near E — I by 
mistake. The pioneer efforts of Dove 
and Shoemaker in the face of severe 
enemy fire, which singled out the bull- 
dozer as a prime target, won for both 
men the Distinguished Service Cross. 18 
Company C's 1st Lt. Robert P. Ross 
won the third of the three Distinguished 
Service Crosses awarded to men of the 



18 Hisi 2()lh Engr C Bn, Jun 44; Operation Rpt 
NKPTUNK, pp. 87, 92; Recommendations for Awards, 
5th ESB, Aug-Oct 44. 



37th on D-day for his contribution to 
silencing the heavy fire coming from a 
hill overlooking Exit E-l. Assuming 
command of a leaderless infantry com- 
pany, Ross took the infantrymen, along 
with his own engineer platoon, up the 
slopes to the crest, where the troops 
engaged the enemy, killed forty Ger- 
mans, and forced the surrender of two 
machine-gun emplacements. 19 Cleared 
fairly early, the E— 1 exit became the 
principal egress from OMAHA Beach 
on D-day, largely due to the exertions 
of the 37th Engineer Combat Battalion. 
The unit suffered the heaviest casual- 
ties among the components of the 5th 



111 Hist 37lh Engr C Bn. 



330 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



Engineer Special Brigade — twenty- 
four men killed, including the battal- 
ion commander. 

Exit E— 3 yielded only slowly to the 
persistence of the engineer troops in 
the area, including Company A, 37th 
Engineer Combat Battalion. Still under 
accurate if intermittent artillery fire 
around 1630, the beach remained un- 
marked for incoming boat traffic, as 
the shelling tore down the signposts as 
soon as they were erected. By 1700 the 
348th Engineer Combat Battalion had 
cleared the lateral road along the beach 
of mines, and the members of both bat- 
talions moved to the base of the uplands 
to begin work in the draw, already 
choked with wrecked American tanks 
and half-tracks. Night drew on as the 
men opened the road leading up from 
the beach. A particularly troublesome 
88-mm. gun interfered with their work 
until dark, and Capt. Louis J. Drnovich, 
commanding Company A, 37th Engi- 
neers, determined that he "would get 
that gun or else." Taking only his car- 
bine and a few grenades, he set off up 
the hill. His body was found three days 
later a short distance from where he 
had started. The exit carried its first 
tank traffic over the hill to Colleville at 
0100 on D plus 1, but trucks could not 
negotiate the road until morning. 20 

By that time, tanks were moving to 
Colleville through Exit F— 1, eastern- 
most in the 16th Infantry's sector and 
close to bluffs dominating Fox Red. 
This was the sector where many troops 
of the first assault waves, including 
some of the 1 16th Regimental Combat 
Team, had landed as a result of the 
easterly tidal current. The task of open- 



2 " Operation Rpt Neptune, p. 101; DeArman.Hist 
5th ESB. Drnovich was awarded the Silver Star post- 
humously. 



ing Exit F-l belonged to the 336th 
Engineer Battalion Beach Group, which 
was scheduled to land after 1200 on 
D-day at Easy Red near E— 3 and then 
march east to Fox Red. Some of the 
advance elements went ashore on E— 3 
at 1315 and made their way toward 
their objective through wreckage on the 
beach, falling flat when enemy fire 
came in and running during the lulls. 2 1 

Heavy enemy fire drove away two 
LCTs carrying three platoons of Com- 
pany C, and the platoons landed at the 
end of OMAHA farthest from the Fox 
beaches. An artillery shell hit one LCT; 
the other struck a sandbar. Both finally 
grounded off the Dog beaches between 
Les Moulins and Vierville — the most 
strongly fortified part of OMAHA, where 
stone-walled summer villas afforded 
protection to German machine gunners 
and snipers and the cliffs at the west- 
ward end at Pointe de la Percee pro- 
vided excellent observation points for 
artillery positions behind the two re- 
sorts. This was the area of the 116th 
Regimental Combat Team, whose engi- 
neer combat battalions — the 112th, 
121st, and 147th — suffered severely 
during the landings. 

Survivors of the first sections of the 
147th Engineer Combat Battalion to 
come in on Dog White at 0710 joined 
infantrymen in the fight for Vierville 
or climbed the cliffs with the Rangers. 
At midmorning the battalion comman- 
der, concerned about a growing con- 
gestion of tanks and vehicles on Dog 
Green, ordered all his units to concen- 
trate on blowing open Exit D— 1 , blocked 
by a concrete revetment. They set to 
work, collecting explosives from dead 
bodies and wrecked vessels, and with 



21 Hist 336th Engr C Bn, 25 Jul 42-31 Aug 44. 



THE LANDINGS ON OMAHA AND UTAH 



331 



the help of men of the 121st Engineer 
Combat Battalion, who had mislanded 
on Easy Green and had made their way 
to Dog Green, were able to open the 
exit, but it was not fully usable until 
2100. At Exit D-3, the Les Moulins 
draw between Dog Red and Easy Green, 
the 112th Engineer Combat Battalion 
commander was killed early on D-day, 
and the men were pinned down by 
enemy fire behind a seawall. Even with 
the assistance of a platoon of the 147th, 
which came in with most of its equip- 
ment during the day, the 1 12th Battal- 
ion was not able to open Exit D— 3 until 
2000. 22 

Wading ashore at Dog Green about 
1500, troops of the 336th Engineer 
Combat Battalion assembled at the shin- 
gle bank and began a hazardous march 
toward Fox Red, more than two miles 
away. The unit moved in a long irregu- 
lar column, followed by a D— 7 tractor 
that towed an Athey trailer loaded with 
explosives. As the battalion made its way 
around bodies and wreckage through 
smoke and gunfire, it witnessed the 
awful panorama of D-day on OMAHA. 
Artillery fire had decreased at Exit D— 1 
after destroyers knocked out a strong- 
point on Pointe de la Percee about 
noon. It grew heavier as engineers 
approached Exit D— 3, several times 
narrowly missing the explosive-laden 
trailer. At E— 1 the fire let up, but con- 
gestion on the beach increased. Bull- 
dozers were clearing a road through 
the shingle embankment, and the beach 
flat was jammed with vehicles waiting 
to join a line moving up the hill toward 
St. Laurent. DUKWs with 105-mm. 
howitzers were beginning to come in; 



22 Hists, 147th Engr C Bn, 29 Jan 43-4 Mar 46; 
121st, 1 Jun-31 Aug 44; and 112th, 1944. 



the first (and only) artillery mission of 
the day from the beach was fired at 
1615 against a machine-gun nest near 
Colleville. 

The worst spot they encountered on 
the beach was at Exit E— 3, still under 
fire as they passed. There the 336th 
Battalion's column ran into such heavy 
machine-gun fire and artillery shelling 
that the unit had to halt. The com- 
mander sent the men forward two at a 
rime; when about half had gone through 
the area, a shell hit a bulldozer working 
at the shingle bank. The dozer began 
to burn, sending up clouds of smoke 
that covered the gap and enabled the 
rest of the men to dash across. As the 
troops proceeded down the beach, they 
saw a tank nose over the dune line and 
fire about twenty-five rounds at a Ger- 
man machine-gun emplacement, knock- 
ing it out; but artillery barrages contin- 
ued hitting the beach in front of E— 3 
every fifteen or twenty minutes. 

At the end of its "memorable and 
terrible" march across OMAHA, during 
which two men were killed by shell frag- 
ments and twenty-seven were injured, 
the engineer column reached the com- 
parative safety of the F — 1 area at 1700. 
The surrounding hills had been cleared 
of machine-gun nests, and although 
enemy artillery was able to reach the 
tidal flat, it could not hit the beach. The 
first job was mine clearance: the area 
was still so heavily mined that several 
tanks, one of them equipped with a 
dozer blade, could not get off the beach. 
The men had only one mine detector 
but were able to assemble several more 
from damaged detectors the infantry 
had left on the beach. More were sal- 
vaged when the last elements of the bat- 
talion came in from Dog Green around 
1730. After they had cleared the fields 



332 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



near the beach of mines and a tank- 
dozer had filled in an antitank ditch, 
the teams began to work up a hill with 
a tractor following, opening the F— 1 
exit. Tanks began climbing the hill at 
2000; two struck mines, halting the 
movement for about an hour, but by 
2230 fifteen tanks had passed through 
the exit to the Colleville area to help 
the infantry clear the town. 23 

Brig. Gen. William M. Hoge, com- 
manding general of the Provisional 
Engineer Special Brigade Group, had 
landed at Exit E— 1 shortly after 1500 
and had set up a command post in a 
concrete pillbox just west of the exit; 
from there he assumed engineer com- 
mand responsibility from the 5th Engi- 
neer Special Brigade commander, Col. 
Doswell Gullatt. As units of the 6th 
Engineer Special Brigade reverted to 
that unit, additional infantry units were 
landing to support the 116th and the 
16th Infantry. The 115th, ahead of 
schedule and also carried eastward, 
landed in the middle of the 18th In- 
fantry, east of the St. Laurent draw. 
This produced some confusion, but the 
new strength swelled the advance mov- 
ing slowly off the beaches by evening. 
In the morning of D plus 1 vehicular 
traffic, infantry, and engineers alike 
were moving through the exits, off the 
beaches, and over the hills. By that time 
the 4th Infantry Division of Force U 
had penetrated the German defenses 
some ten miles to the west at UTAH 
Beach. 24 

Utah 

As the first assault elements transfer- 



M Hist 336lh Engr C Bn, 25 Jul 42-31 Aug 44; 
Operation Rpt NF.rn NK, pp. 98-100; War Dept, Hist 
Div , Omaha Beachhead, pp. 101-06. 

24 Operation Rpt Neptune, pp. 96, 102-03. 



red into landing craft a dozen miles off 
UTAH, alarmed German local com- 
manders were trying to fathom the 
intentions and to gauge the strength of 
the paratroopers that had dropped into 
their midst around 0130. Separated in 
the cloud cover over the Cotentin pen- 
insula while evading German antiair- 
craft fire, the transport aircraft headed 
for partially marked drop zones astride 
the Merderet River and the area be- 
tween Ste. Mere-Eglise and UTAH itself. 
Scattered widely in the drop, the troop- 
ers of the 82d and 10 1st Airborne Divi- 
sions struggled to concentrate their 
strength and find their objectives. The 
82d had one regiment fairly consoli- 
dated from the start east of the Mer- 
deret. The division took the town of 
Ste. Mere-Eglise with mixed contin- 
gents, some troops from the 101st work- 
ing with the 82d even as glider-borne 
reinforcements came in shortly before 
dawn. The 101st Airborne Division, 
equally dispersed, managed to mass 
enough of its own men and troopers of 
the 82d who fell into its area of respon- 
sibility to secure the western edges of 
the inundated land behind UTAH and 
the all-important causeway entrances 
on that side of the German beach de- 
fenses. With German strength threat- 
ening the landing zone from across the 
Douve River to the south, the para- 
troopers could not muster enough men 
to control or destroy all the bridges 
across the river. Engineers of Company 
C, 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion, 
rigged some for destruction, and small 
groups held out nearly all of D-day in 
the face of German units south of the 
stream, awaiting relief by other air- 
borne units or by the main body of the 
invasion. Their losses and their disorga- 
nization notwithstanding, the para- 
troops had thoroughly confused the 



THE LANDINGS ON OMAHA AND UTAH 



333 



German defenders and engaged their 
reserves, especially the veterans of the 
91st Division, far from the beaches. 25 

Compared with OMAHA, UTAH was 
practically a walkover. Owing to the 
smoke of the prelanding bombardment 
and the loss of two small Navy control 
vessels marking the line of departure 
off the beach, the entire first wave of 
the 8th Infantry's assault grounded 
2,000 yards south of its intended land- 
fall. The operation of UTAH shifted to 
the left of the original beaches, fortu- 
itously striking a shoreline far less heav- 
ily defended and with muc h sparser 



obstacle belts than expected . \{Map 17) 

Bet 



Engineer demolitions were to begin 
at 0635, five minutes after the infantry 
landing. The teams involved were un- 
der an ad hoc Beach Obstacle Demoli- 
tion Party commanded by Maj. Her- 
schel E. Linn, also the commanding 
officer of the 237th Engineer Combat 
Battalion. Underwater obstacles above 
the low tide line were the targets of the 
first demolition units, eight sixteen-man 
naval teams, each including five Army 
engineers. Eight of the twelve available 
26-man Army demolition teams were 
to land ten minutes later, directly be- 
hind eight LCTs carrying the dozer 
tanks to be used on the beach. Navy 
and Army teams were to clear eight 
fifty-yard gaps through the beach ob- 
structions for the subsequent waves, 
and the fourth and fifth waves of the 
assault would bring in the remainder 
of the engineers to help clear the area 
as necessary. Linn and his executive 
officer, Capt. Robert P. Tabb, Jr., plan- 
ned to supervise the beach operations 
from their M— 29 Weasels, small tracked 



cargo vehicles capable of negotiating 
sand and surf. 26 

The plan came apart immediately. 
Army and Navy teams landed almost 
simultaneously between 0635 and 0645. 
On the run to the beach, Major Linn's 
craft was sunk off Uncle Red; he did 
not arrive ashore until the following 
day. Captain Tabb, now in command, 
drove his Weasel off the LCT on Tare 
Green and felt it sink beneath him. He 
salvaged the radio after getting the crew 
out and made for the beach, where he 
encountered Brig. Gen. Theodore Roo- 
sevelt, Jr., assistant commander of the 
4th Infantry Division, walking up and 
down the seawall back of UTAH and 
directing operations. At the time enemy 
fire was so much lighter than expected 
that the landing seemed to Tabb almost 
an anticlimax. Except for six Army 
engineers, who were killed when a shell 
hit their LCM just as the ramp dropped, 
all the demolition men got ashore safely 
and immediately began to blast gaps in 
the obstacles. About half were steel and 
concrete stakes, some with mines at- 
tached to the top; the rest were mostly 
hedgehogs and steel tetrahedrons, 
with only a few Belgian gates. 27 

The four Army gapping support 
teams landed on the northern part of 
Tare Green Beach at 0645 after a har- 
rowing trip from the transport area. 
They had been aboard an attack trans- 
port with the commanding officer of 
the 1106th Engineer Combat Group, 
Col. Thomas DeF. Rogers. Rogers dis- 
covered at the last minute that no provi- 



Dept of the Army, Hist Div, Utah Beach to Cher- 
bourg, pp. 14-42; Chester Wilmol, The Struggle for 
Europe (New York: Harper, 1952), p. 245. 



m Dept of the Army, Hist Div, Utah Beach to Cher- 
bourg, p. 47; Engr Opns VII Corps, vol. II, "Nor- 
mandy," pp. 9-10; Hist 1 106lh EngrC Gp, Jun-Dec 
44; Jnl, 237th Engr C Bn, Jun 44; Iiiterv, Capt Roland 
G. Ruppenthal with Maj Robert P. Tabb, Jr., 6 Sep 
44, ML 1032, ETOUSA Hist Sect. 

27 Interv, Tabb, 6 Sep 44. 



334 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



sion had been made for getting the 
reserve teams ashore, and he arranged 
with the ship's commander to load the 
whole party of ninety-three men, with 
explosives, into a single LCM. Rogers 
went along in the dangerously over- 
loaded craft, proceeding shoreward at 
full speed. Landing in an area where 
no gap had been blown, he got the men 
to work and then walked southward 
down the beach to inspect the work the 
leading teams were doing. The Army 
and Navy teams had partly blown fifty- 
yard gaps, which Rogers instructed 
them to widen to accommodate the 
landing craft bunching up offshore. He 
saw two tankdozers in use but observed 
that gaps were cleared mainly by hand- 
placed charges connected with prima- 
cord. 

The work went on under artillery fire 
that increased at both the southern and 
northern gaps after H-hour. Rogers 
and others were deeply impressed by 
the heroism of the men, but casualties 
were light compared to those on OMA- 
HA. The Army teams had 6 men killed, 
39 wounded; the Navy teams, 4 killed 
and 11 wounded. The initial gaps were 
cleared by 0715. Then the demolition- 
ists worked northward, widening cleared 
areas and helping demolish a seawall. 
By 0930 UTAH Beach was free of all 
obstacles. The Navy teams went out on 
the flat with the second ebb tide and 
worked until nightfall on the flanks of 
the beaches, while by. noon the Army 
teams were ready to assist the assault 
engineers in opening exit roads. 28 



w Ltr, Col Thomas DeF. Rogers to Engr, VII Corps, 
23 Jun 44, sub: Report on Demolition of Utah Beach 
Obstacles, 237th Engr C Bn Jnl, 1944; Commo. James 
E. Arnold, "NOIC Utah," United Stales Naval Institute 
Proceedings, LXXIII (June 1947), 675; Hist 1st ESB 
(Utah), sec. VII, p. 67; Interv, Tabb, 6 Sep 44. 



While the demolitionists were blow- 
ing the obstacles, Companies A and C 
of the 237th Engineer Combat Battal- 
ion, which had landed with the 8th 
Infantry at H-hour, were blowing gaps 
in the seawall, removing wire, and clear- 
ing paths through sand dunes beyond. 
For these tasks the two companies had 
bangalore torpedoes, mine detectors, 
explosives, pioneer tools, and markers. 
Later in the morning they received 
equipment to bulldoze roads across the 
dunes. 29 

Beyond the dunes was the water bar- 
rier, running a mile or so inland from 
Quineville on the north to Pouppeville 
on the south, which the Germans had 
created by reversing the action of the 
locks that the French had constructed 
to convert salt marshes into pasture- 
land. Seven causeways crossed the wet 
area in the region of the UTAH landings 
to connect the beach with a north-south 
inland road. Not all the causeways were 
usable on D-day. Most were under water; 
the northernmost, although dry, was 
too close to German artillery. The best 
exits were at or near the area where 
the troops had landed — another stroke 
of good fortune. Exit T — 5, just north 
of Tare Green Beach, was flooded but 
had a hard surface and was used dur- 
ing the night of D-day. Exit U— 5 at 
Uncle Red was above water for its entire 
length and became the first route in- 
land, leading to the village of Ste. 
Marie-du-Mont. South of U— 5, some 
distance down the coast near Pouppe- 
ville and the Douve River, lay the third 
road used on D-day, Exit V— 1. Al- 
though in poor condition, the road was 
almost completely dry. 30 



20 Interv, Tabb, 6 Sep 44. 

3 " Engr Opns VII Corps, vol. 11, "Normandy," p. 12; 
1st ESB (Utah), p- 52. 




MAP 17 



336 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 




Teller Mine Atop a Stake emplaced to 

impale landing craft on Utah Beach. 

At the entrance to Exit U— 5 the Ger- 
mans had emplaced two Belgian gates, 
Company A, 237th Engineer Combat 
Battalion, blew them and also picked 
up several prisoners from pillboxes 
along the seawall. Then the engineers 
accompanied the 3d Battalion, 8th In- 
fantry, inland along Exit U — 5. Half- 
way across the causeway they found that 
the Germans had blown a concrete cul- 
vert over a small stream. The column 
forded the stream and proceeded, leav- 
ing Captain Tabb to deal with the 
culvert. He brought up a bridge truck 
and a platoon of Company B to begin 
constructing a thirty-foot treadway 
bridge — the first bridge built in the 



UTAH bridgehead. Men of the 238th 
Engineer Combat Battalion, who had 
landed around 1000 with the main 
body of the 1106th Engineer Combat 
Group, helped. By 1435, Exit U— 5 was 
open to traffic. 31 

Two companies of the 49th Engineer 
Combat Battalion, also landing with the 
1106th in midmorning, accompanied 
the 2d Battalion, 8th Infantry, on its 
march south to Pouppeville. The engi- 
neers were to work on Exit V— 1 lead- 
ing from the beach through Pouppe- 
ville to the north-south inland road, 
while infantry was to make contact with 
the 101st Airborne Division, protect- 
ing the southern flank of VII Corps. 
Company G of the 8th Infantry also 
had the mission of capturing the sluice 
gates or locks southeast of Pouppe- 
ville that the Germans had manipulated 
to flood the pastureland behind Tare 
Green and Uncle Red beaches. An en- 
emy strongpoint still farther south at 
Le Grand Vey protected the locks. 32 

While Company E of the 8th Infan- 
try moved down the road along the 
eastern edge of the inundations, Com- 
pany G hugged the seawall. All the way 
down the coast the two companies en- 
countered continuous small-arms fire, 
and Company G met artillery fire from 
a strongpoint on the seaward side about 
halfway down. At a road junction north- 
east of Pouppeville, the infantry battal- 
ion assembled and advanced to the 
village, where shortly after noon occur- 
red the first meeting of seaborne and 
airborne troops on D-day. 



: " Interv,Tabb,6Sep44;Hisls,238thand237thEngr 
C Bns and 1 1()6lh Engr C Gp. 

32 Hist 1 106ih Engr C Gp, Jim-Dec 44; 1st ESB 
(U tah), p. 65; Deptof the Army, Hist Div, UtnhBeach 
to Cherbourg, map 8. 



THE LANDINGS ON OMAHA AND UTAH 



337 



During the probe to Pouppeville the 
infantrymen bypassed the sluice gates. 
But Company A of the 49th Engineer 
Combat Battalion moved south, secured 
the locks, took twenty-eight prisoners, 
and dug in to protect the locks from 
recapture. Next day the company over- 
came the German strongpoint at Le 
Grand Vey, capturing fifty-nine pris- 
oners, seventeen tons of ammunition, 
large quantities of small arms, and three 
artillery pieces, which the engineers 
used to reinforce their defenses. Dur- 
ing the next few days, with the aid of a 
platoon of Company B, Gompany A 
continued to hold its position, protect- 
ing the south flank of the beachhead 
and operating the locks to drain the 
water barrier. 

Except for the 49th Engineer Com- 
bat Battalion, which bivouacked near 
Pouppeville, all elements of the 1 106th 
Engineer Combat Group including the 
beach obstacle demolitionists went into 
bivouac on the night of D-day at Pont- 
Hebert, a village on the north-south 
inland road about halfway between 
causeways U— 5 and V— 1. Total D-day 
casualties for the group had been seven 
men killed and fifty-four wounded. For 
a few days work on the exits continued, 
but the next major task for the group 
was to help the 101st Airborne Divi- 
sion cross the Douve River. Improv- 
ing the causeways, clearing and devel- 
oping Tare Green and Uncle Red, and 
opening new beaches then became the 
responsibility of the 1st Engineer Spe- 
cial Brigade. 34 

When" Brig. Gen. James E. Wharton, 
commanding the 1st Engineer Special 



: " Hists, 49th Engr C Bn, Tun, Jul, Dec 44, and 
1 1 ()6th Engr C Gp, Jun-Dec 44; Depl of the Army, 
Hist Div, Utah Beach to Cherbourg, p, 53. 

M Hist 1 106th Engr C Gp, Jun-Dec 44. 



Brigade, landed on UTAH at 0730 on 
D-day he found his deputy, Col. Eu- 
gene M. Caffey, already on the beach. 
Not scheduled to land until 0900, Caf- 
fey had smuggled himself, with no 
equipment except an empty rifle, aboard 
an 8th Infantry landing craft. En route 
he managed to load his rifle by taking 
up a collection of one bullet each from 
eight infantrymen. He arrived ashore 
very early in the assault and found Gen- 
eral Roosevelt in a huddle with infan- 
try battalion commanders, debating 
whether to bring later waves in on the 
actual place of landing or to divert them 
to the beaches originally planned. Men 
of the 8th Infantry were already mov- 
ing inland on Exit U— 5. The decision 
was made. "I'm going ahead with the 
troops," Roosevelt told Caffey. "You get 
word to the Navy to bring them in. 
We're going to start the war from 
here." 3 ^ 

The first elements of the 1st Engi- 
neer Special Brigade to land were men 
of the 1st and 2d Battalions, 531st Engi- 
neer Shore Regiment, who came in 
about the same time as Wharton. They 
set to work widening gaps the combat 
engineers had blown in the seawall, 
searching out mines, improving exits, 
and undertaking reconnaissance. Be- 
cause one of the main tasks of the engi- 
neer regiment was to open Sugar Red, 
a new beach to the north of Tare Green, 
the officers reconnoitered the area, and 
elements of the 2d Battalion partially 
cleared it in preparation for its com- 
plete clearance and operation by the 
3d Battalion, scheduled to arrive on the 
second tide. The brigade headquarters 



35 1st ESB (Utah), p. G3; Ryan, The Longest Day, pp. 
205, 233. Ryan based his account on an interview with 
Caffey. 



338 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 






ROADS LEADING OFF THE BEACHES opened by engineers, 8 June 1944. 



was ashore by noon, and at 1400 Whar- 
ton established his command post in a 
German pillbox at La Grande Dune, a 
small settlement just beyond the dune 
line and near the entrance to Exit U— 5. 

Less than half of the road-building 
equipment the engineers counted on 
reached shore on D-day. Twelve LCTs 
were expected, but only five landed 
safely, all on the second tide. German 
shells hit three of the remainder, and 
the other four were delayed until D plus 
1 . Many engineer vehicles drowned out 
when they dropped into water too deep; 
hauling out such vehicles of all services 
was one of the heaviest engineer tasks 
on D-day, and a good deal of the work 
had to be done under artillery fire. 



Artillery accounted for most of the 
D-day casualties in the brigade — twenty- 
one killed and ninety-six wounded; 
strafing by enemy planes, which came 
over in the evening, caused most of the 
rest. 

By nightfall of D-day the brigade 
engineers had opened Sugar Red, and 
had made the road leading inland from 
it (Exit T — 5) passable for vehicles. 
They had cleared beaches of wrecked 
vehicles and mines, had improved the 
existing lateral beach road with ches- 
paling (wood and wire matting), and 
had set up markers. The brigade's mili- 
tary police were helping traffic move 
inland. The engineers had also estab- 
lished dumps for ammunition and medi 



THE LANDINGS ON OMAHA AND UTAH 



339 



cal supplies and had found sites for 
other dumps behind the beaches. 36 

Despite the doubts and fears of the 
early hours on OMAHA, the invasion 
was successful. To be sure, the troops 
were nearly everywhere behind sched- 
ule and nowhere near their objectives 
behind OMAHA, but at UTAH the entire 
4th Division got ashore within fifteen 
hours after H-hour with 20,000 men 
and 1,700 vehicles. In the UTAH area, 
the fighting remained largely concen- 
trated in battalion-size actions and scat- 
tered across the segments of French ter- 
rain tenuously held by American air- 
borne units. Nevertheless, the Allied 
forces had a strong grip on a beach- 
head on the Continent, and German 



1st ESB (Utah), pp. 63-69; Hist 531st Engr 
Shore Rgt, 6-17 Jun 44. 



counterattacks were feeble at best. The 
job of the next few days was to con- 
solidate the flow of supply across the 
beaches and through the artificial port 
complex that the invasion force had 
brought with it across the Channel. 
Despite the tragic losses among the gap- 
ping teams and the collapse of their 
efforts on D-day, the Provisional Engi- 
neer Special Brigade Group by D plus 
1 had provided the early basis for the 
supply organization on the beaches that 
would operate until the end of the year. 
Backlogs of invasion shipping fed by 
factors beyond the engineers' control de- 
veloped immediately off both beaches, 
and the limited numbers of trucks and 
DUKWs available affected supply move- 
ment just behind the shore. But on 
balance, the engineers' contribution in 
ingenuity and blood in the Normandy 
assault was immeasurable. 



CHAPTER XVI 



Developing Beaches and 
Reconstructing Ports 



Once the invasion force was ashore 
the engineers of the Provisional Engi- 
neer Special Brigade Group entered 
upon a three-phased schedule for or- 
ganizing beach supply operations. The 
first two phases were tied directly to 
the tactical situation since they involved 
setting up dumps on the beaches and 
later moving the dumps to protected 
sites as much as four miles inland. The 
last phase would begin with the comple- 
tion of the MULBERRY, an artificial har- 
bor to be made of sunken blockships 
and concrete caissons offshore, provid- 
ing more efficient discharge of cargoes 
and men directly from pierhead struc- 
tures to the beaches at OMAHA via float- 
ing roadways. UTAH, with more lim- 
ited constructed facilities serving it, 
would continue to receive heavy traffic 
in men and materiel from lighters, the 
various landing craft, makeshift Rhino 
ferries, and barges plying between larger 
vessels and the beach. Gradually, as cap- 
tured ports came into service, the logis- 
tic load would shift there, and the MUL- 
BERRY complex would close down before 
the autumnal storms interfered with the 
operation. 1 No clear-cut dividing line 

1 Unless otherwise noted the following is based 
chiefly on Ruppenlhal, Logistical Support of the Armies, 
Volume 1, pp. 389-426; Operation Rpt Nl'.l'l UNK; and 
Morison, The Invasion of France and Germany, p. 162. 



separated these activities, and, in fact, 
they tended to overlap each other as 
shore engineers developed the supply 
system. While the engineers organized 
the beaches into administrative subdi- 
visions, providing roads to the water's 
edge and laying out supply areas just 
inland, Transportation Corps troops 
would help unload cargo, move sup- 
plies to depots or using units, and con- 
trol traffic on and behind the beaches. 
The Transportation Corps would also 
operate smaller captured ports in the 
area once the engineers had cleared 
obstacles and mines and restored dock- 
side equipment and storage space. 

The initial dump phase demanded a 
clear marking scheme for all the beaches 
in both landing areas. The Provisional 
Engineer Special Brigade Group fol- 
lowed the so-called British World Wide 
System, extending the military alpha- 
bet and color codes already in use on 
the invasion beaches. By 1600 on 8 June 
the engineers had subdivided the origi- 
nal Easy Red and Fox Red beaches on 
OMAHA into two more beaches, Easy 
White and Fox White. Each sector was 
marked with large, color-coded wooden 
panels. For night identification the 
OMAHA beaches first had lights blink- 
ing the Morse code for Dog, Easy, or 
Fox. When this system caused confusion, 



DEVELOPING BEACHES AND RECONSTRUCTING PORTS 



341 



Tetrahedrons at Omaha Beach 



the brigades erected signboards with 
nine-foot-high lettering outlined in col- 
ored lights matching the beach names. 
On UTAH, the 1st Brigade resprted to 
hanging barrage balloons directly over 
the beaches, painting them to corre- 
spond to the coding of Uncle Red and 
Tare Green. They added a second red 
balloon above Sugar Red, opened to 
the right of Tare Green by the 531st 
Engineer Shore Regiment. 

During the week after D-day the 
engineers also cleared the OMAHA 
beaches and improved the roads run- 
ning the length of the beach and up 



2 The Adm and Log Hist of the ETC), vol. VI, 
"Neptune: Training for Mounting the Operation, and 
Artificial Ports," pp. 68-71. 



through the draws. The men could only 
cut paths through the debris in some 
spots. The gapping team survivors from 
the 149th and the 299th Engineer Com- 
bat Battalions joined the group engi- 
neers in clearing junk and salvaging 
vehicles. Bulldozer crews either assisted 
in this work or leveled the shingle bank, 
using the stones and wreckage to fill in 
antitank ditches. At UTAH other Ger- 
man forces withdrawing up the Cotentin 
peninsula toward Cherbourg kept the 
beaches under artillery fire for a week 
after the landings, but the main diffi- 
culty in managing supply was the lack 
of dump space in the low fields behind 
the beach. Though drainage operations 
began on D-day in the Pouppeville area 
when 1 1 06th Engineer Combat Group 



342 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



units reset the locks there to draw off 
the flood behind the southern end of 
the beach, the terrain was still too marshy 
to support the weight of large amounts 
of supplies and the vehicles necessary 
to move them. 

Confusion offshore and unbending 
adherence to the NEPTUNE plan added 
to the delay in unloading. Until D plus 
4 First Army plans called for the dis- 
charge of items according to a rigid pri- 
ority system. But shipping manifests 
identifying priority cargoes and vessels 
did not reach the proper hands among 
Transportation Corps crews or the Navy 
officer in charge of beach operations. 
Engineer brigade officers at First joined 
naval officers and transportation troops 
in small launches in time-consuming 
searches for specific ships but later sim- 
ply took the nearest vessels ready for 
discharge. The Navy refused to beach 
LSTs for fear of German artillery fire 
at UTAH and in the belief that they 
would break their keels as they settled 
onto the uneven tidal flats. Once the 
latter worry proved unfounded, LSTs 
after D plus 2 "dried out" regularly — 
the vessels would ground just after high 
tide, discharge their cargo onto the dry 
flat after the water receded, and pull 
off again with the next tide. This method 
slowed the shipping shuttle between the 
beaches and the mounting out ports in 
southern England because it took twelve 
hours to refloat the craft. Nevertheless, 
it did more than any other single expe- 
dient to reduce the shipping backlog 
off Normandy and to boost the lagging 
discharge rates of troops, supply, and 
vehicles before segments of the MUL- 
BERRY harbor came into full service. 

The arrival at UTAH on 10 June of 
the 38th Engineer General Service Regi- 
ment, an Advance Section (ADSEQ 



unit attached to the 1st Engineer Spe- 
cial Brigade, heralded the beginning of 
the beach maintenance phase of engi- 
neer operations. The regiment was to 
work behind the beaches, removing 
mines, improving roads and bridges, 
and draining flooded areas. One battal- 
ion had the task of opening a fourth 
beach, Roger White, to the north of 
Sugar Red. Blasting holes in the sea- 
wall and clearing beach obstacles from 
the tidal flat, the battalion had the new 
sector ready for operation two days 
later on 12 June, but shellfire from Ger- 
man batteries to the north postponed 
the opening of Roger White. The enemy 
opposition there also stopped work on 
the northernmost sluice gates behind 
UTAH until mid-June, though the south- 
ernmost gates, in the area where most 
of the landings were made, were already 
functioning when the 38th arrived. On 
13 June the regiment could report that 
all roads in its area were open and 
passable. 3 

Beach maintenance dumps of the 5th 
and 6th Engineer Special Brigades, 
located along the Isigny-Bayeux road, 
were ready for operation on 13 and 14 
June. By then the fields were clear of 
mines and, after the capture of Trevieres 
on 10 June, of enemy resistance except 
for scattered sniper fire. The dumps 
were located in a series of relatively 
small fields divided by hedgerows, small 
trees, and drainage ditches. The engi- 
neers filled the trenches and cut gaps 
through the hedgerows to allow trucks 
to move from field to field and to 
relieve congestion on narrow roads. 

As combat troops inland eliminated 
the last direct German fire on OMAHA 
on D plus 4, the buildup on shore took 



1 Hist 38th Engr OS Rgt, 1944. 



DEVELOPING BEACHES AND RECONSTRUCTING PORTS 



343 




Twisted Sections of Lobnitz Piers at Omaha Beach 



impetus from the gradual completion 
of artificial harbor installations and 
their protective breakwaters — a line of 
sunken ships known as a GOOSEBERRY. 
Naval construction elements opened 
two 2,450-foot causeways on each of 
the major invasion beaches by 10 June, 
the spans at OMAHA coming in at Exits 
E— 1 and F— 1. Two days later, when 
General Bradley stood on Omaha, the 
sight of the massive construction off the 
beaches convinced him that the inva- 
sion area had become the major port 
of Europe. 

On 12 June the influx of men and 
supply still lagged behind the planned 
figures: just over 17,000 troops landed 
with 22,869 called for; only 9,896 long 
tons of supply arrived ashore compared 



to the 12,700 tons planned; and 2,645 
of the more than 4,000 vehicles sched- 
uled for the day arrived. With VII 
Corps ready to begin cutting off the 
Cotentin peninsula and isolating Cher- 
bourg, an ammunition shortage, espe- 
cially in artillery shells, was already 
developing. Cumulative totals among 
the various categories of discharge were 
88 percent of the planned troops, 73 
percent of the supply tonnage, and 66 
percent of the vehicles. But on 16 June 
hopes rose for meeting unloading sched- 
ules as the first LST nosed up to the 
Lobnitz pierhead off OMAHA and dis- 
charged its load of vehicles directly to 
shore via a 3,000-foot "whale," or float- 
ing roadway, in just under two hours. 
Not the least elated was Col. Richard 



344 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



Whitcomb, whose 11th Port organiza- 
tion was manning the pierheads while 
attached to the Provisional Engineer 
Special Brigade Group. But the opti- 
mism died on the eighteenth, as nature 
began reducing the American MUL- 
BERRY to ruins. 4 

Unloading slowed to a crawl from 19 
to 22 June while a howling Channel 
storm tore the harbor apart, driving 
smaller vessels into causeways, pier- 
heads, and whale structures and cast- 
ing the wreckage ashore in tangled 
heaps of caissons, coasters, and land- 
ing craft. The engineers managed to 
get a total of 2,557 long tons of cargo 
out of beached craft during the four 
days. In several cases, as with the coaster 
Highware, the men resorted to cutting 
holes in ships' sides to get at the holds. 
The more fortunate British MULBERRY, 
farther east, rode out the storm with- 
out extensive damage. The debris at 
UTAH was not heavy, but the engineer 
brigades at OMAHA faced the same 
beach clearance problem on 22 June 
that they had on the seventh. 

Clearance and salvage now vied with 
the rush to unload necessary men and 
supply in the days after the storm. All 
LSTs dried out on the Fox beaches at 
OMAHA, where there was less wreckage. 
By using every available LCT, LCM, 
and DUKW to ferry material from ship 
to shore, the brigades began to realize 
a potential for moving supply and troops 
across an open beach that the planners 
apparendy had not recognized. DUKWs, 
which had all escaped the storm's effect 
by hastening ashore to wait out the 
weather, were invaluable at both beach- 
es. Tonnage Figures exceeded the 

1 Bradley, A Soldier 'a Story, p. 289; Operation Rpi 
NEPTUNE, pp. 12, 144; Alf red Stanford, Force Mulberry 
(New York: William Morrow, 1951), pp. 139, 171. 



planned daily tables consistently be- 
tween 24 and 30 June although the dis- 
charge rate never caught up with cumu- 
lative figures expected. By the end of the 
month the troop buildup had reached 
452,460, roughly 78 percent of the esti- 
mated 579,000 that should have been 
ashore on that date. Supplies amounted 
to 80 percent of the 360,000 long tons 
scheduled, and the 70,910 vehicles un- 
loaded were only 65 percent of the 
111 ,000 First Army expected by D plus 
24. Despite the lag, the engineers had 
recovered remarkably well from the 
devastation of the storm and had sus- 
tained operations on the beaches as the 
fighting moved toward Cherbourg and, 
south of the beaches, into the hedge- 
row country of Normandy. In the mean- 
time some measure of help in supple- 
menting the over-the-beach supply op- 
erations came with the rehabilitation of 
several minor ports in the area. 

Small Ports Near the Beaches 

OVERLORD planning had taken into 
consideration six minor ports: Grand- 
camp-les-Bains and Isigny just west of 
OMAHA; St. Vaast-la-Hougue and Bar- 
fleur north of UTAH; Granville on the 
west coast of the Cotentin peninsula; 
and St. Malo in Brittany. All these ports 
were tidal, drying out at low water; even 
at high tide they could accommodate 
only small vessels. Therefore, their 
capacity was not expected to be great, 
and they were to be developed only as 
a stop-gap measure to provide some 
additional discharge facilities until the 
full potential of larger ports could be 
realized. All minor ports were to be 
open by 6 July. [(Map 18) 

According to the plan of the ADSEC 
engineer, Colonel Itschner, who was 




MAP 18 



346 



CORPS OF ENGINEERS: THE WAR AGAINST GERMANY 



responsible for opening the ports, the 
headquarters of the 1055th Port Con- 
struction and Repair Group and ad- 
vance elements of the group's 342d 
Engineer General Service Regiment 
were to tackle the repair of the ports in 
turn, beginning with Grandcamp and 
Isigny. After rehabilitation, operation 
of these two small ports near OMAHA 
would be the responsibility of the 1 1th 
Port (TC), attached to the Provisional 
Engineer Special Brigade Group. The 
1 1 th Port was also to furnish a detach- 
ment to the 1st Engineer Special Bri- 
gade to operate St. Vaast, while the 4th 
Port (TC) was to supervise operations 
at Barfleur, Granville, and St. Malo. 5 
Access to Grandcamp, a small fish- 
ing port and summer resort about five 
miles west of OMAHA, was through a 
fifty-foot-wide channel between two 
jetties. The jetties extended from the 
beach for about 350 feet to the port 
proper, a rectangular artificial basin 
with a concrete wharf and one quay. 
From the information available, plan- 
ners had estimated the minimum high- 
tide depth of channel and basin at eight 
feet, making it possible to bring in LCTs 
and small coasters. Because the little 
port was so vulnerable to enemy demo- 
litions the engineers were not sure that 
it could be used at all, but they hoped it 
could be opened by 20 June, with a 
goal of 500 tons of cargo daily there- 
after. A TC port company, a quarter- 
master truck platoon, and an adminis- 
tration detachment from Headquarters, 
1 1th Port, were to operate Grandcamp 
port. 



5 Unless otherwise cited, this section on the small 
ports is based on: Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the 
Armies, Volume I, pp. 62, 288-90, 310, 463-65, and 
Volume II, pp. 61-62; Operation Rpt Neptune, pp. 
159-62, 166-69. 



Grandcamp fell on 9 June. Next 
morning, while the port was still under 
sniper fire, Capt. Andrew F. Klase of 
1 1 th Port headquarters arrived to sur- 
vey conditions and was agreeably sur- 
prised to find that the Germans had 
done no damage beyond sinking two 
hulks across the channel. Five wrecks 
lay in the basin, probably victims of 
Allied aircraft. Less agreeable was the 
discovery that the water in the basin 
and channel was only 4 1/2 feet deep. 
The estimate of eight feet, based on 
old charts, proved wrong because the 
port had not been dredged in six years. 
Nevertheless, Captain Klase began the 
task of rehabil